Life Matters,  Live Simply to Simply Live

Bigger, Brighter, Better

It is my observation that people seem to want things that are “bigger, brighter, better”. Years ago we would call it “keeping up with the Joneses”, our neighbours. It is an idiom that measured our social class and success in life.

Success is often measured by the goods we are able to accumulate. The word for it is consumerism. There is a relentless advertising blitz all around us which says buy, buy, buy! The Australian Retailers Association reported that last year in the lead up to Christmas we spent $45 Billion.  We are told that if we spend and accumulate things/goods it will benefit the economy and it is good for the country. The wheels of commerce keep people in a job and every one of working age needs a job.

To create employment and for us all to have a better shopping and dining out experience money is then invested in property development. But do we need the “bigger and brighter” shopping centres, cinemas, sporting venues and entertainment centres. Is this making our life better? In Brisbane the Queens’s Wharf development proposal is the biggest in a generation. Again, is “bigger and brighter” – “better”! There will be five hotels, 50 restaurants, a Sky Deck, gold cinema, casino and the list goes on. This is the way the world is going – “bigger, brighter, better” – but is “bigger and brighter” better for us, better for the future, better for relationships, better for family life?

What happened to the village where we work and play and the concept of “small is beautiful”. Dr E.F. Schumacher published a book of the same title in 1974. I read it some years later. It looks at the economic structure of the Western world in a ground-breaking way. Dr Schumacher questions the benefits of big development with a focus on the person not the product, smaller working units and regional workplaces using local labour and resources. For me his ideas encapsulate life in the local village. It is living life simply without all the glitz and glamour that say “bigger and brighter is better”.

While there is nothing wrong with a shopping expedition should the common goal be to earn more so we can spend more? Some would sing out a resounding YES! Shop till we drop and then go back the next day for some more retail therapy. Happiness though does not come in the form of a receipt from Tiffany’s. Although I must admit I could find a use for a two carat diamond ring as long as I did not wear it when checking on the Princess Chickens. As I mentioned in an earlier post the Princesses have a propensity for shiny bright items and would peck it off my finger. It would be swallowed before I could catch my breath. It seems that even chickens like things that are “bigger and brighter”.

But humour aside for the moment. How many people buy things they don’t need? Some items have never been worn and later you find them in pre-loved clothing shops, still with the original price tag. Many people buy goods because of a price reduction and then hoard these for the right occasion, which sometimes never comes. There are those who buy something because it is the latest and greatest even though the older item is in good working order. But does this type of consumer behaviour make us feel great?

A recent study in Britain discovered fifty things that make us feel great and most of these were free. The top 10 are as follows:

  1. Sleeping in a freshly made bed – 62%
  2. Feeling the sun on your face – 57%
  3. Being thanked, or a random act of kindness from a stranger – 53%
  4. Finding money in unexpected places – 52%
  5. Having time to yourself – 48%
  6. Laughing so hard it hurts – 48%
  7. Snuggling on the sofa with a loved one – 44%
  8. Smelling freshly made bread – 43%
  9. Doing something for others – 43%
  10. Feeling clean after a shower – 42%

Read more about the study here.

There it is. It is the free things, the simple things in life that make us feel great. However, this does not mean that we should not work to make our life, those of our children and community a better place to live. It is not the new piece of luggage, the new R.M. William boots or Jimmy Choo Shoes that will make us feel great. And yet, I would like to try how it feels to have a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes and prance around, maybe even dance around for an hour or two. I am sure I would feel great for a while, maybe every time I slip on those shoes. Yes, I still have a little consumerism left in my psyche as much as I try to live the simple life by not buying things I don’t need. Though for a special celebration those Jimmy Choo shoes could be just what are needed!

Many of you reading this post will recall Peter Greste, the Australian journalist, who spent 400 days in an Egyptian prison. After his release it was the things that were free that he wanted to enjoy the most. He looks like the type of guy that might like to wear a pair of R.M. William boots but what were really important to him were the simple things, the things that are free. As reported by ABC correspondent Barbara Millar when Peter was asked what he would most like to do after his release from prison he responded “Watching a few sunsets. I haven’t seen one of those at all for a very long time, watching the stars, feeling the sand under my toes — the little things.” Further he said “You realise it is those little beautiful moments of life that are really precious, and spending time with my family of course”. Yes, thanks for the reminder Peter, it is the simple things of life that count. I always feel great when sitting and staring, watching the ducks on the pond or the changing moods of the mountains. Such small and precious moments, captured forever in our mind, are the most beautiful.

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