5 September 2016

67 – What Matters

I’ve been thinking about money, stuff, and happiness recently.

A few conversations about those things led to my watching some stand-up comedy. And that got me to thinking about some song lyrics. And those things inspired this essay.

I try not to dwell on money and stuff too much. In my world there are much more important things to do and think about. And thinking about what money and stuff do to us just makes me wanna holler.

Out-of-this-world artist. Madder than hell at The World.

But it’s a challenge not to obsess over money and stuff. That’s because The World wants us obsessing over them all the time.

So buckle up. I’m going off on a rant.

The World spews so much hot air, white noise, and bullshit at us that they’re impossible to avoid. And they’re usually thrown at us in sexy packaging accompanied by a catchy jingle. Nobody’s better at spinning garbage and lies into necessity and truth than The World.

We get bombarded by this nonsense before we even know how to wipe our own asses. The World pounds the eardrums, eyeballs, and brains of children without mercy. Don’t believe me? I’d throw down hard cash that there’s more advertising for KidsFood and toys than advertising for beer, cars, and affordable mortgage plans. So next time your kids insist on watching television, do yourself a favour: dump cable and get Netflix instead. It’s better for them.

All that white noise, hot air, and bullshit is issued with one purpose in mind: turning us into mindless Consumers with an insatiable appetite for Stuff.

The message, as brought to us by The World, is that consumption and acquiring Stuff lead to one thing:


According to The World, Success is measured in three ways: 1) the funds in our bank accounts, 2) the material things we surround ourselves with, and 3) the Careers we pursue.

According to The World, god lives in our wallets. The Stuff we acquire is our shrine to that god. Worrying about how to pay down those debts is deemed the proper form of worship. And pursuing a Career that serves to reinforce The World’s status quo is the best way to practice our faith.

That’s a shallow way to pay tribute to a small god, and an even bigger cost to pay in the search for happiness. But most of us will pay the cost no matter what the price. We allow The World to fool us into thinking we Own this Stuff that leads to Success.

Ownership, as brought to you by The World, is a myth.

Very few of us have the cash on hand to buy outright the houses we live in, the cars we drive, or the university courses we take. Most of us finance our education, car, and home for years through mortgages, loans, and credit cards. And those are just different words for the same thing: forms of rent underwritten by a bank. 

We don’t own those things when we acquire them through credit. The banks own us.

Many of us dig ourselves into a financial black hole in the process. We severely constrict our personal spending power and cash flow to be able to say we Own the homes, cars, and gadgets that The World tells us lead to Success. We proceed to spend the great bulk of our adult working lives paying down, and stressing out over, those debts. And while we’re stressing out over not having enough Money we’re constantly being lectured to put away enough Money to enjoy retirement.

Translation: have fun being stressed out for the rest of your life.

The World’s got us by the balls, and we won’t dare do a damn thing about it.

We buy in to the Illusion of Affluence.

It’s one of those deep truths of life that nobody wants to admit. Unless you’re Louis CK, who’s not afraid to question an amazing world in which nobody’s happy.

Funny man. Angry that nobody is amazed by sitting in a chair in the sky. 

He’s right. A seemingly endless supply of Stuff exists that gives us the ability to do amazing things. But that Stuff often stresses us out and leaves us feeling like prisoners. In acquiring the Stuff The World tells us we need to become a Success, we give up something far more precious.

We give up our freedom.

The Illusion of Affluence also contributes to that great delusion so many of us abide. All of the Stuff we own reinforces that great wall of denial we spend a lifetime building around ourselves. It distracts us from the cold, hard truth of that empty forever we’re trying so hard not to know. And no amount of Money, Stuff, or Success can save us from it.

The one truth we all must face.

What The World wants and what we need are two very different things. The World wants us to worship Money and Stuff. But they’re false idols that betray our faith.

The Gospel according to Elston Gunn.

Now don’t get me wrong. A comfortable home, pantry and fridge stocked with food, and reliable means of transportation are important things. We need some Money to get those things we need. And we need to perform some work to earn that Money. And success does matter.

But Money, Stuff, and a Career don’t make us better people by default. Having them doesn’t guarantee happiness and success. And I’m not asking you to believe me. Plenty of studies have proven this to be true. And you're not getting any links this time. Get off Facebook and Google something useful for a change. 

Simple equation on paper. Not in real life.

Money, Stuff, and a Career don’t define you. Having the high-end job, owning everything, and earning more money than you’ve always dreamed of doesn’t translate into pure, lifelong bliss. In the real world there is no happily ever after and some days you’ll hate what you love. It’s impossible to find genuine success and happiness in The Endless Pursuit of More.

The World tells us to look for Happiness and Success in places where they’ll never be found. They can’t be stored in a garage or mounted on a rec room wall. They don’t grow in a high interest savings account or a mutual fund. They aren’t etched below your name on the door to a fancy office.

There’s a reason genuine happiness and success can’t be found in such places. It’s because in the big picture those things really don’t matter.

Genuine happiness and success comes from someplace else. They come from creating the world that you want to live in, not living a life The World tells you you should live. They come from choosing to surround yourself with good people who matter to you. They come from choosing to do things that matter to you with the time that’s available to you. And sometimes we discover that choosing to spend less and acquire less stuff actually gives us the freedom to do more.

If you feel happy that means you’re successful. Because in the real world success is spelled H-A-P-P-I-N-E-S-S.

More importantly, it means you’re truly livingBecause spending Money and accumulating Stuff ain’t living. Connecting with good people, learning new things, and being creative is.

Those are the pursuits that make us better people. Those are the roads to genuine success and true happiness.  Those are the experiences you can never put a price tag on.

Those are the experiences that matter most. 

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The House Newf is from a rugged and beautiful island on the eastern edge of Canada called Newfoundland. He was first identified by a potter with a naturalist's flair, and he does in fact live in a house under the watchful eye of a cat that seems bewildered by the universe at large. That house is in Halifax, Nova Scotia and that's where the House Newf writes fiction and essays on things that add value to his life that may add some value to yours. You can contact him at bobharding80@gmail.com, follow him on Twitter @theHouseNewf, on Instagram @thehousenewf, and like him on Facebook. The House Newf is a unique specimen. Every home should have one.