human decay materialism critique of

Materialism; Or, The Human in Decay

Material things function as extensions of ourselves, extensions that serve as substitutes for the living and breathing beings that we cannot have. A romantic in despair is an impulsive consumer. When the life which we lead forces us to be “at peace” with the unpredictable, we, naturally, seek something stable, something material that will numb our senses. For example, if you were involved romantically with someone, and out-of-the-blue he or she decided to call it quits on the relationship, this instability—this unpredictable and uncontrollable chaos—would have terrified you, the romantic. Maybe it was all in my head the entire time? Maybe love was never there to begin with? Maybe people are just too unpredictable? Perhaps, this is why my own world is so prone to falling apart…

The unstable characters which surround us, characters that are no different than us, create within us the desire—nay, the demanding need!—to find something eternal, something stable, something that would last “forever.” And what could be the polar opposite of the unstable and the human? Material things of course!

It is in material things that we find a kind of permanence. No, I’m not suggesting that material things are permanent (for one knows that steel rusts and wood burns); rather, I am suggesting that material things are permanent enough for us to feel as if they are, indeed, stable. This stability, this permanence that we desire begins to surround us in our chaotic world as our material things increase in number. The more material things we buy, the more stable the environment around us feels.

Take me, for example (allow me to function as a sort of “martyr” for this piece!). In losing a relationship—or should I rather state “since having lost a relationship”?—I have done nothing but consume. And it was this nonsensical consumption that prompted my interest in examining, philosophically, what exactly it was that was causing me to consume.

I purchased a Fossil wallet, throwing my old, black leather one away. I use my wallets all the time, and the fact that I changed the wallet gave me a sense of “Well, you’ve entered a different stage in life; now you are a different person. Cast off your worries! The things that occurred in the past are no more!” Maybe that’s what I had been looking for all this time: I wanted to feel as if the past was the past, the relationship was over, and it was time for me to move on. My old wallet would have hindered that process. I am no longer that man who had used that wallet!

I purchased a new car, trading in my hybrid for a convertible Lexus. And why the hell not? You only live once, they say. I drive a lot. Maybe this, too, was a way for me to evade reliving the past—and I wanted nothing to do with it.

I also went shopping. (You might as well change out your wardrobe if you are planning on reinventing yourself, correct?) Why wear the same clothes that you used to wear? That person that wore them, that was a different he. That was a he that belonged to a she; a he that lived a life that is now completely foreign to you. You’ve left all of that behind too.

I then dyed my hair. Why look the same when you are no longer that you?

And so, in a mere few weeks, a distance had been created between the present you and the you who had lived in the past. Lines were drawn, phone numbers deleted, photos erased—an entire epoch in your life brought to a slow and annihilating death. And that was that.

You left it all behind.

You walk around feeling like a million bucks; you laugh in the most evolved of manners—for, by all means, you have changed.

But that is all change controlled by you. The entire time, you had been in charge. The dying of the hair, the purchasing of a new vehicle, the sheer mind-numbness of materialism—that was all “controlled demolition.” You were in charge. It gave you a sense of power, a sense of control. And it had been control that you had wanted the entire time. You wanted to feel like life made sense. People made sense.

But they didn’t. And they don’t.

Out of the tumultuous dizziness of heartbreaks and sorrows, out of the nauseating suppression of the human—there, in the dampest and darkest of places, out of the utter decay of the human, there materialism rears its monstrous head.

But materialism is not some sort of dream-state. Like anything else, it has its problems. Surrounded by the nonsensical possessions, one sinks into a despair far worse than the original wound—for the plastics and the steels of this world cannot quench the fires of a burning love, a dying-yet-resilient passion.

And so all one can do is return to the initial despair, to the initial wounds, the initial life-beginnings of a romance that would not be. “As a dog returns to its vomit…” (Proverbs 26:11). Perhaps it is here, in that most remedial of places, that one discovers a single truth: tgtyelijtlablir.[1]

Or maybe not.

 

 

As I leave the Mall of Georgia, sporting a new jacket, the sound of a folk artist playing guitar and singing some melancholic tunes distracts me. I approach him, toss him some money, and sit next to him. I ask him to “play me something romantic.” He complies with my wish.

After playing three songs for me, I finally leave a lighter and happier soul.

 

Written by: Moses Y. Mikheyev

 

[1] For those who do not know, this is the acronym for “the greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.” It is a lyric written by Eden Ahbez for Nat King Cole’s song Nature Boy.

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