The word “worldly” suggests adherence to material satisfactions. We live in a consumer-driven society, in which all of us – even students, patients and passengers – are considered “customers”. Progress is marked by increases in material wealth. The push from advertising, the media, and our peers is towards bigger and more; the market thrives only by stirring us to a state of dissatisfaction. Success in the economy is defined only by growth.
These attitudes are ingrained, copied by developing countries, and largely unquestioned until the recent world recession has driven many to reconsider these social concepts, some of which in their heart of hearts, perhaps, they have always felt to be false – and to reassess their life’s priorities.
¿Cómo surgió la definición de salud de una nación llega a ser tan ligada a su situación económica? Cada vez más la medida de "bienestar" en un amplio cualitativo, más que cuantitativo, el sentido está estableciendo su lugar. Como obra de Richard Layard y otros ha revelado, un aumento de la riqueza material no conduce a un aumento de la felicidad.
Growth as Our Sole Measure of Success?
Examination of such wealthy nations as Japan, the United States and the UK shows that once our basic needs are met, an increase in wealth makes no difference to our level of happiness. This is not just anecdotally true, it is the story told by countless pieces of scientific research in such fields as psychology, neuroscience, economics, sociology and philosophy.
Not only have we begun to question the concept of growth as our sole measure of success; increasingly it has become clear that continuing growth in all the world’s economies is simply not sustainable. Populations grow, as does our use of the planet’s all too finite resources.
Continual global growth is not possible, and is damaging to the world. In this context, we have begun to take a little more seriously the hugely radical move in the remote Kingdom of Bhutan to make the happiness of its people the measure of its success. The phrase “Gross National Happiness” was coined in the 1970s by its former king and has subsequently been developed into a sophisticated measure that not only represents a unifying vision for the country, but has been laid down as the foundation of its economic and development strategies.
Finding Ourselves at Odds with the Prevailing Mores
If our purpose is to be true to our real selves, it is inevitable that we will at times find ourselves at odds with the prevailing mores. White lies, petty dishonesty, exaggeration of the truth – these are part of the everyday currency of the world we live in.
As we become more sensitive to the movement of our inner lives, we may find our former complacency pinpricked into discomfort. Greed, lies, inequality – what have these to do with our real values? What is lacking in our own lives that we fill them with the ephemera of fashion or the vicarious excitement of celebrity gossip?
As we listen to our inner promptings, our lives may move in a different direction, and we will feel out of synch with much that surrounds us. The tendency of our lives will have become counter-cultural.
“Being” Rather Than “Having”
All major faiths have an ethical dimension: they are not just a set of beliefs but a way of living that expresses a set of values. The eight-fold path of Buddhism, for example, asks for not only Right belief, Right attention or collectedness and Right contemplation, but also Right will, Right speech, Right action, Right means of livelihood, and Right effort towards self-control. The chief obstructions to right living, it says, are the “three poisons” of greed, hatred, and delusion.
Perhaps the most relevant to our discussion is greed, which is taken to include craving, attachment and envy: standard aspects of our daily life. “The values of faith”, says Jonathan Dale, “are diametrically opposed to the values of the market...Love, truth, peace, community, equality point to an other-centredness wholly at odds with the market’s relentless appeal to self”.
By questioning and rejecting some of the world’s false practices we can also come to live with increased autonomy and less dependency on what we might have come to see as a dehumanising economy. We can move in a culture dominated by materialism towards a simplicity that is about “being” rather than “having”.
©2011 by Jennifer Kavanagh. All Rights Reserved.
Reproducido con permiso del editor.
Simplicity Made Easy
by Jennifer Kavanagh.
Sobre el autor
Jennifer Kavanagh gave up her career as a literary agent to work in the community. She is a microcredit practitioner, facilitates conflict resolution workshops and is active in the Quaker community. She has published six books of non-fiction. She is a Churchill Fellow and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.