Mindful consumption

Does the work you do feed your soul or your desire to distract yourself from yourself?

I notice the thrill of consuming, and the indulgence and addictive feelings that surface in me when buying and acquiring new things. (I’m thinking of addiction here as  “an unusually great interest in something or a need to do or have something (Merriam-Webster).”) I recognize in me the cravings, compulsion, and fixation to consume. I know I can be weak when there is a new shiny object that I feel I need, or I feel will fill me with joy, but truly do not need and the joy will be fleeting, if I am honest with myself. So I have been observing my consumption of goods, wondering what the word consumption really means.

Consumption as a noun:

  • the act or process of consuming: by using up (use, utilization, expenditure, depletion, exhaustion), or waste (squandering, draining, dissipation)
  • the utilization of economic goods in the satisfaction of wants or in the process of production resulting in their destruction, deterioration, or transformation
  • a progressive wasting away of the body especially from pulmonary tuberculosis

To consume as a verb:

  • to do away with completely: destroy
  • to spend wastefully: squander
  • to use up
  • to eat or drink, especially in great quantity
  • to enjoy avidly: devour
  • to engage fully: engross
  • to utilize as a customer

This word carries a lot with it. It can mean simply the using of something and it can also mean the wasting and destroying and elimination of something. It can also mean the physical wasting away of humans. I propose this: when we use economic goods with a fixation that feeds our cravings and compulsions, we are creating the conditions for our own wasting away.

When we use economic goods with a fixation that feeds our cravings and compulsions, we are creating the conditions for our own wasting away. 

In economic terms, consumption is the using of things, of economic goods. But the goods we use–and the work we do to create those goods–are always in relation to our physical habitat. If we are in a poor relationship with the world around us we will deplete it, we will consume it and in so doing we will waste away. If we are in a good relationship with the world around us we will shift and adjust our work to be responsible and responsive to both our needs and the needs of our habitat. When addicted to consuming we are in an unhealthy relationship with our habitat, unable to see that we are fowling our nest. “Consumption” can be the measure of what we use, or it can be a significant–and harmful–distraction from the interrelationships we have with the physical, social and economic habitats around us.

City Emergence Dynamic by hand

This question of how much we consume is related to the work we choose to do because our work is either driven from our soul, when we do the work that we know we are called to do, or is work driven by how we want to appear to the outside world. The latter is driven by status, by having and accumulating, by keeping up with the Joneses, and with endless consumption. The latter also results in people doing work they don’t want to be doing because they need to pay the bills that come with endless consumption.

The work we do creates our cities, and if the work we do feeds addictive consumption we are creating cities that are, and will, waste away. The habitat we make for ourselves is only as good as we choose to make it. The work we choose shapes our cities–it is a survival skill. This means that if the work we each choose is based in addictive consumption we are harming our city and ourselves. The choice: feed our addictions or feed the habitat that will feed us.

The choice: feed our addictions or feed the habitat that will feed us.

I recognize that addictions are hard to kick. Here’s another economic term to consider: opportunity cost, the loss of other alternatives when one alternative is chosen. While consuming goods with abandon I abandon who I am. I consume to feel more like me but it is a trick because it takes me away from me. Consuming connects me to the material world outside me but it also distracts me from my inner world, where I connect with myself and find the work that I truly want to be doing. The same thing happens at the scale of the city. The more we work with abandon, to consume more and more, we are distracted from who we truly are and the work we truly want to be doing. You know this.

Does the work you do feed your soul or your desire to distract yourself from your Self? 

Does the work you do feed your soul or your desire to distract yourself from your Self? If you are distracting yourself, you are contributing to your own wasting away, and our wasting away.

I propose mindful consumption. I propose that a citizen that serves the city well is one that is doing the work s/he loves to do. That citizen consumes what s/he needs, s/he takes what s/he needs, and leaves the rest for others. S/he is ever more mindful of how the choices made affect our economic, social and physical habitats. S/he is every more self-aware of mindless action and not so easily distracted from where s/he fits in the world.

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Note – Definitions from oxford dictionaries.com and merriam-webster.com.

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