Escalation Is Not the Way

January 19, 2019 in John's Blog

The consumption economy is delivering. New movies, new series, new toys, new apps — everything seems to be churned out at an increasing pace, and the quality is often impressive.

I notice it in kids’ movies. In an attempt to minimize the time my children (6, 10, 12) watch mindless stuff on TV, but in an acknowledgment that I am too weak/indecisive/lazy to stop them from watching altogether, I occasionally look for highly rated movies. Rotten Tomatoes is a great resource.

Some of the movies my kids have watched as a result — and I have listened to in the background — seem really good: Isle of Dogs, Song of the Sea, The Secret of Kells, Up, Wreck-It Ralph, to name a few.

The “stuff” we can consume these days is truly impressive.

Yet, people seem more stressed, less happy.

Why?

I’ve experimented with diets in the past, and those experiments seem to offer an answer. After not eating for a while, the next meal tastes better. It doesn’t matter what it is — it simply tastes better than that same thing would taste on a full or half-full stomach.

This may apply to the other stuff we consume as well. If you watch a good movie every day or every week, no movie will leave a lasting impression. If you buy new shoes all the time, the next pair will not have as big of an impact.

The problem is that those who can afford virtually anything they desire instinctively — and almost automatically — exercise that power, producing a pattern of diminishing utility.

This is perhaps why a minority of people with above-average buying power consciously build “nothing” into their lives — to accentuate the next thing.

Meditation may be such a “nothing”. A week-long Vipassana treat may be an even bigger “nothing”. Intermittent fasting is a sixteen-hour daily “nothing”. Watching movies only in the movie theater creates another “nothing”.

Instead of escalating consumption, perhaps we need to create more nothings.