Giving Materialism the boot

It’s been a short while since I lasted posted but unfortunately, I had a small dosage of writer’s block. Additionally, I am also suffering with My-Back-Is-Fucked-itis 2: The Sequel which, let me tell you, is not enjoyable. To snatch a silver lining from a particularly black and moody stormcloud, I am now off work for a few days in order to recover and this means I have some time to get my writing back on.

So let’s fucking do this.

Today I am going to talk about materialism, specifically my determination to kick it to the gutter. It’s an affliction that one doesn’t recognise even when it’s right before their eyes and there are many reasons for this. Further, materialism is also widely classed as a negative personal value since it contributes little to your life. Obviously, a little materialism isn’t necessarily something to get freaked out about but as with all things in life, there has to be balance and moderation or else it is probable that another department in your life is out of whack.

mag1For me, the first reason that I am materialistic is because I’m a hoarder; a magpie who loves shiny things. Even worse, I am a big geek with a large collection of videogames, books, DVDs and all that shit. With the videogames, I was once obsessed with ensuring that I picked up collector’s editions, original prints and complete (i.e boxed with all original instructions, paperwork etc.) copies with the view that I would eventually get around to playing them all “some day” (such a magical phrase!). Problem is though, I can easily spend over a hundred hours on a good role-playing game so the reality is, I am never going to get around to playing everything I have bought meaning that at least 80% of my collection sits on shelves or in storage crates, gathering dust. There’s also the question of replayability and whether I would REALLY ever revisit something I’ve already beaten.

Moving onto books, it’s pretty much the same thing. I have a burning need to make sure that I have the first edition hardback copies in excellent condition. It costs more money and those hardbacks take up a LOT of space. The main problem with a swollen bookshelf is that I am unlikely to revisit a large chunk of those books even if I enjoyed them. For as many books as I have read, there is an ocean of other good reads out there and I intend to dip my toes in that ocean rather than remaining in my literary comfort zone. Also, great books that rely on incredible plot twists or mystery tend to blow their load like a male pornstar on that first read and as a result, often sacrifice their ability to provide the same rush on a repeat reading. It’s okay to say that you enjoyed these books but not revisit them. One such example that immediately springs to mind (and has ended up in my growing stack of stuff to get shot of) is Stephen King’s The Outsider. This was a fantastic page-turner but once you know what happens then the mystery is gone.

DVD’s are another space-waster and I tend to keep what I think I would 100% watch again but as I look through my collection, I find so many that are covered in dust and haven’t been viewed in several years, despite my best intentions. Again, it’s okay to say that you enjoyed a movie but keeping copies of every single DVD around “just in case” hasn’t turned out to be a great idea.

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A tiny snapshot of my videogame hoarding. These shelves are two layers deep and full of stuff I haven’t inserted into a console in years.

There is a second reason that materialism has crept up on me over the years and this is where I have to simply cut the bullshit and get straight to the point in true Unfiltered Opinion style. I collect things because it distracts from my real problems. Materialism is akin to a mask or smokescreen with the items and collections providing an illusion of comfort and something to waste away your time and attention on rather than dealing with real life issues.

With this in mind, I have decided that now is the time for an utterly brutal clear-out. I want a tidier, more streamlined living space that leans more towards minimalism. There is also a lot of money tied up in some of these things, especially the videogames, some of which have appreciated in value over the years thanks to a buoyant collector’s market. And having more money is always a helpful thing. Y’see, aside from the obsessions I have already spoken about, I also collect trading cards and have an appetite for performance cars, both of which aren’t cheap interests. I would much rather have just the one type of nerdy collecting habit so that I can focus on my car and my own life. As I said, some materialism isn’t necessarily bad but it has to be moderated and if that means cashing in on several defunct hobbies/collections in order to reduce it down to just the one then so be it.

Of course, anybody who has tried to do this before knows that letting go of shit is difficult if you have developed the hoarder mentality. Sentimentality is one of the biggest hurdles but I find that guilt over throwing out gifts or old presents is the tougher obstacle. On top of these nasties, you are also dealing with the fear of not being able to acquire X item ever again once it’s gone as well as trying to break free of this detrimental mindset of running away from root problems to bury your head in material possessions.

So I scoured the internet and various blogs to find the best tips for slaying materialism and leading a more minimalist life. Here is what I have compiled thus far; the wisdom that I will continually be referring to while I attempt to let go of stuff.

  • Love or associated memories of a person/event are not in the items themselves. They are in us and our memories. Taking and archiving a photo of an item before getting rid of it is enough.
  • Worst case scenario: I can always buy something again if I really need it down the line.
  • Keeping useful items to save wasting them is a waste in itself. A waste because other people could be using those items.
  • Ask “if I didn’t have this item, how much would I pay to get it?”. If the answer is “nothing” then you can let go of it because it is worth “nothing” to you.
  • Does it add any value to my life? Do I feel any kind of spark when holding the item? If not then I am simply stuck holding onto the past.
  • Always keep your ultimate life goals and dreams in mind. If these items won’t help you get there and don’t bring any joy then they can go.
  • If you own too much stuff then your stuff will own YOU.

So I’m going to give this a go. At the time of typing out this post, I have already piled up a load of stuff that I never thought I would let go of and despite the fact that it is still here in the house, I honestly have no regrets about pulling these items out and have no itch to put them back before it’s “too late”. Some stuff is already listed on ebay and I have many more areas to scrutinise and collections to slim down.

I have come to firmly believe that materialism is a bad thing and one of the largest problems in Western society that is rarely spoken about in the mainstream. Probably because the mainstream is so busy trying to sell us more crap and ‘fashionable’ products that won’t really enhance our wellbeing – just keep us drugged up on entertainment and gadgets so that we remain content and believing that we are happy (we aren’t).

Tried this yourself? I would love to hear about your experiences with battling materialism and the methods you used.

Why I don’t believe in religion

Well, this might be a thorny subject but here goes anyway. Blame it on the fact that I’m currently still sponsored by ibuprofen and Deep Heat pain relief for my screaming back. That and a lack of sleep last night as a result of said back.

Anyway, if you’ve read any of my previous content work word vomit on this blog, you will know the score. I don’t like to pander or apologise. Maybe I come off as being tactless and bullish but as far as I’m concerned, it’s far better to be honest. It’s also a luxury that we have here in the West and I’m well aware of that. HOWEVER…in the case of this specific post, I feel that I must open by saying that what follows is not an attack on any religion or indeed anybody who believes in a god. Your views and your beliefs are yours and regardless of what you might believe about me, I would certainly not ridicule or insult somebody else for holding those beliefs. We would still get along in real life because people aren’t just opinions and beliefs on legs, as difficult as that is for the militant and zealous amongst us to accept.

I do believe that everything should be open to challenge or analysis however. Denying that points to insecurity or the fear of having something disproven. In my (unfiltered) opinion of course.

I’m not going to make a meal out of this or attempt to forge an in-depth thesis so I will simply list off the reasons I have for not believing in a religion. I also want to take a quick second to say that this post was inspired by a post on belief systems written by Black Sheep over at Not Sheep Minded. Check his blog out if you have a moment as I’m really enjoying his content right now. Anyway, my reasons.

  1. There is no proof. As far as I can see, there is no proof or hard evidence of any religion’s deities or figures of importance actually ever having existed. True, we can look back at historical evidence and sometimes tie religious events down to a likely date. We can also safely assume that some of the figures described in religious texts may have lived in some capacity. But as for the miracles, magical events and omnipotent beings? There is no hard evidence at all. Further, we have to ask the question of why the appearances of and interactions with deities no longer occur. Where are the unbelievable miracles and incredible acts such as Moses parting the ocean?
  2. A lot of believers (not ALL I must stress) believe what they believe because they were told to. Maybe they grew up in a traditionally religious family and religion was drilled into them from a young, impressionable age. Maybe they live in a country where religion is as commonplace and widely accepted as breathing air. Regardless, there are millions of believers who probably didn’t actively choose to follow their religion but were raised to believe in it without ever questioning the authenticity or facts. In my mind, this is the same as voting for a particular political party just because your parents or the majority of your neighbours always have done. It’s the same as harbouring a hatred towards a neighbouring country for no rational reason other than because your ancestors did so. It’s like only buying Nike trainers because all of your friends do. In all cases, there are gaping flaws in such behaviour and an ignorance towards alternatives. There is no willingness to ask questions or challenge what you have been told is correct.
  3. Blind belief. Tying in with the above two points, I simply cannot accept that it is healthy to believe so strongly in something and re-order your life around said belief without any evidence. In one way, I genuinely admire people who can do this but for me, I just think of all the other things in this world that I would put zero stock in without any proof or at least prior experience that it works. Perhaps this last point can be countered by those who believe they have had certain experiences that simply aren’t explicable by scientific or earthly means. That much, I will concede.
  4. Contradictions. We are told to respect the beliefs of others and different religions attempt to co-exist in peace. However, the teachings and lifestyles of different belief systems often contradict one another. So if we are all to accept the beliefs of others, how can we accept that multiple religions have conflicting endgames? Does this mean that only one religion is right? THAT is a path of questioning that nobody wants to venture down.
  5. Wars. Religion – alongside power, greed and lust – has been one of the standout motivators for bloody, senseless wars. From Islamic terrorism to the Christian Crusades, countless wars have been fought due to the other “side” holding separate beliefs or because one side wants to force their teachings onto others. Considering that peace and love is often preached, this strikes me as highly ironic. Those with a deep convinction in their chosen religion are prepared to put that above all else and go much further than non-believers. It’s a scary and cold-blooded notion.
  6. It is a form of control. Don’t do X because you will be denied heaven. Don’t do Y because you will be punished for it. DO keep doing Z because it will be thought well of in the next life. Order is necessary in society and while nobody enjoys being ruled over by office managers, politicians or the police, there are at least usually legitimate reasons for this form of control. You have to get the work done at the office to keep your job and to keep the gears of your company greased for example. You have to obey the law because murder, theft et al are wrong and bring suffering to others. But spending your life submitting to another form of control because you are taught to on the basis of no hard evidence (see Point 1) is not for me. It is all done on the promise that you will be rewarded later on but there is no proof of that and no way of knowing what will happen when you die. So again, it goes back to believing something simply because somebody else tells you that it is so.

Now I do realise that I have probably hammered all of that out in a crude and ignorant-sounding fashion but those points are simply how I see the situation. Obviously, I am open to having my points challenged and having a reasonable discussion. What I’m not open to are those who relentlessly push, push, push their beliefs without showing me some hard facts as to why I should make a decision to believe in what I cannot see. A discussion cannot exist in that format.

It isn’t just religion either. I don’t believe in ghosts, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster or anything else that has no concrete evidence. With all of these things (religion included) I like to think that I keep the door open just a crack i.e. I am open to new evidence and open to the fact that someday, I might witness something that will change my views. I am not closed-minded. I just don’t see the reasoning in accepting anything without sound argument or proof. And it’s too easy to play the “well if your mind isn’t open then you won’t see it” card because that’s the cheapest trick in the book as far as I’m concerned. It takes us down a dangerous path where anything at all is possible if it can’t be solidly disproved. It’s a way for anybody to promote anything as the truth and while I do enjoy looking at out-there theories and possibilities, it is still with an sceptical and analytical mindset.

As I have said before though, one thing I do believe in is remembering that we can always be wrong about anything. It keeps us questioning things and prevents us from becoming too ignorant or sheep-like.