On Our Culture of Maximization / Why I Opted Out
Our culture is one of maximization. We want the best, greatest, biggest, fastest, most instant, flashiest, most incredible ______. We want the best job, biggest apartment, nicest furniture, most friends, biggest network, fattest 401k, etc. et al.
As a result, we’ve cultivated an atmosphere of frantic busyness. Our access points to the infinite are never off. Internet, phone, and TV are 24/7, repeatable experiences which aid in the insanity of this maximization.
Like our phones, many of us are never disconnected, never unplugged, never allowed to rest from the constant pinging.
Perhaps we’ve missed it. Perhaps the way to more is actually through less. What if the magnanimous, boisterously joyful, full, wholehearted experience we’re yearning for is not achieved through more, but through less?
It’s not a quantity game. It’s a quality game. Maximization ignores a fundamental part of the human experience: appreciation.
In an effort to collect more, we appreciate less, unable to fully taste the food we eat, or enjoy the rays of sunlight beaming through our windows in the early morning as we wake.
In an effort to reach our arms wide, we’ve forgotten the nature of the soul, and the fullness of our life itself is wider than it is deep.
We’ve forgotten process. We’ve forgotten slow. We’ve forgotten patience. In place of these virtues of the soul, we’ve erected pillars to the microwavable, never-ending, flashing lights of instantaneous satisfaction. The farmer doesn’t have to sow seeds and wait for the rain. You can download a harvest of your choice, and skip the long road of process.
We skip journeys, and see no value in the long walk or the scenic route.
This is why we burnout. This is why we have break downs, panic attacks, anxiety fits, depressive episodes, and general fear about the entirety of our existence.
Secretly, our souls know the truth: no amount of maximization will fulfill our longings. We could travel the whole world, collecting the most of whatever we long for in an instant, only to want more the next moment.
What you need isn’t more stuff.
More isn’t in the quantity.
More is in the present.
This is why I downgraded to a flip phone. I want to experience my now more. I need to connect to the people in front of me, whether friends or strangers. I need to be present in this moment.
It’s not any secret, downgrading is less about the actual technology, and more about you. It’s about your humanity. The frailty of your soul. It’s about caring for your self well, so you can flourish in life and thrive as a person.
Try it. Set the phone down. Strike up a conversation with the stranger in the coffee shop. Engage your co-workers, and roommates. Pause, and be aware of the beautiful creation that surrounds you, and the other human beings who have a responsibility to love one another, care for each other, and cultivate wonder in this world we all share.
Header Image edited according to flickr CC license, original attributed to Marco Nurnberg