Thursday, September 30, 2010

Doing things just because we can

I was talking to James of yesterday about living trash-free, environmentalism and life in general. He recently sold his car, and was telling me about the experiences he garnered after selling the car, experiences that he wouldn't have had with the car. He started taking the bus, and thought, "These are real people. These people have stories." At the same time, he said how not having a car re-organised his life, in that access to objects and things has changed, especially in time. For example, he said that now since he doesn't have a car, he can't hop into it in the middle of night to grab a burger at a fast food joint somewhere. He waits now for his chance to get a burger, and that may be a week or two from when he first thought about getting one. But the fact that he has to wait for certain things he took for granted earlier gives him a greater sense of satisfaction when the time finally comes around.

This speaks to larger issues of consumption in general. Most of the things we buy, and most of the things we do, come out of the ease of access to them. We buy, we drink, we eat, just because we can. What if I couldn't buy canned foods from Europe? What if I couldn't buy a new cell phone every year? What if I had to cook my own food because fast food wasn't available? I would have to re-organise my life, live here and now, spatially and in time. I would buy local, I would spend time cooking with friends, I would be happy with the cell phone I have, and I wouldn't be trashing our planet along the way.

1 comment:

  1. yes, this seems to be related to the "paradox of choice," described in the book (with that title) by barry schwartz. sometimes the more choices we have, the less happy we are. "hey," one thinks, "this is a cool [fill in the blank], but it's not as cool as my friend's. maybe i should have gotten the other one at the store; maybe i should get a new one." this often creates not only an endless stream of needless consumption but also a continual lack of satisfaction due to actual and anticipated buyer's remorse.