November 27, 2008

Material Abundance and Feeling Abundant

The Thanksgiving holiday is a good excuse to reflect on the material abundance of our time. The ordinary person in 2008 has five times the material possessions of 50 years ago, and orders of magnitude more than the kings and queens of five centuries ago.

The relative material success of our time comes as a surprise to many people just because they don’t feel so prosperous. In strictly material terms, though, we are astonishingly prosperous compared to any other period in history.

The great irony of this situation is that often, we keep so many material possessions just because we do not feel abundant. We keep things we don’t use and realistically won’t ever use because it makes us feel like we have more. These things, though, turn into clutter, an obstacle that gets in our way and keeps us from doing whatever it is we are trying to do. Material possessions that are supposed to help us do things, instead keep us from getting things done.

It is not so hard to turn this irony around. Today, think about the value of the things you have. Look at how much you have and start to add up how much you could do with the things you have. Take it all in. The feeling you get when you realize how many possibilities you have will make it easier to have fewer possessions — and to get more done. With a feeling of abundance, it is easier to keep the possessions you use and take away ones you don’t really want.

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