The world is becoming increasingly more materialistic, more greedy, always wanting more more more. How can we be happy when what we view as happiness is forever out of reach because of our mindset? Do purchases and money make us happy? Or do experiences and relationships bring true happiness? The film series Lord of the Rings exemplifies what a fulfilling life consists of. By looking at the characters lifestyles and attitudes we can get hints into how to have a happier, more fulfilling life.
Look at Saruman and Gollum, they consider themselves happy when they become more powerful or obtain some object that they desire.
Others, such as the Hobbits, choose to live a simple life in a small town, next to their close family and friends. That being said, who lives the “good life”? It seems pretty clear that the Hobbits are the happiest characters. We can see their happiness in the energetic way that they interact with others, always smiling or laughing. They genuinely have a good time and enjoy each other’s company... and eating lots of food!
What does living the “good life” entail? It seems that living a happy life comes from living simply. The Hobbits lived in modest homes with only the possessions they needed or that would enrich their lives. They aren’t defined by worldly things or power. Hobbits choose to live by close family and friends, having lasting relationships surrounding them.
Could these be some of the reasons that the Hobbits live happy, fulfilling lives?
Tina Su argues in her article The Simple Life, that to have a happy life, we must simplify our crazy lives and focus on what we value most. When we change our perspective on wealth and possessions and how they enrich our lives then, we can enjoy a simpler life. For instance if we throw away all our “gadgets” with a bad mindset then we will become monsters, miserable with an empty mind, in our empty house. Getting rid of our “gadgets” can be a positive change, but we need to realize how they control us and how they make us feel. Once we realize this then getting rid of our stuff can be a positive thing that makes our lives better. Su emphasizes slowing down and making conscious decisions in the things that we do, such as checking our smart phones, will lead to a more meaningful life. If you feel like your life is out of control, simplify.
People often chase after happiness in worldly things, defining their happiness and success in life by how much money they have, how expensive their clothes are and how high up on the corporate ladder they can climb. An example from Lord of the Rings; Saruman is so overcome with the need for power that he betrays his friends and morals. When his plan to obtain power fails, he is stuck in his high tower with all his material possessions, miserable. Another example is Boromir, though he was willing to help Frodo with the ring, had his own idea of how the rings power should be yielded. His own quest for fame and glory ultimately lead to his death. Because of his greed in a split moment he betrayed Frodo and tried to steal the ring. More concerned about having power rather than with destroying the source of evil. A quest for fame and power makes life very complicated. Those endeavors alter your vision of what’s important. Turning it from the simple things in life that make you happy to material and worldly things that provide instant gratification and feed your hunger for superiority.
Our society hates to be bored. We want instant gratification. And I’ll admit objects do bring happiness, they provide us with immediate pleasure which our world is so accustomed to in this day and age. The article, Living Happily In A Material World: Material Purchases Can Bring Happiness, talks about the different types of happiness that material possessions give, versus the joy that experiences and relationships bring. Research has shown that material things and experiences bring “two distinct flavors” of happiness. Material things make us feel happy instantly, but eventually that happiness fades and that object becomes just another thing in our home. Experiences on the other hand, provide intense happiness during the moment, then they become a fond memory. This article argues that the happiness the experience provides goes away after it’s over and that they memory isn’t as intense as the initial moment of bliss (Living Happily In A Material World: Material Purchases Can Bring Happiness). Personally I would like to disagree with this fact. While some may say that experiences fade, I would say that, looking back on adventures brings joy when you recall the experience. You can remember the sights, smells, and sounds with intensity and fondness.
Gregoire in her article The Psychology Of Materialism, And Why It's Making You Unhappy, talks about how consumerism and the mindset of getting more money, nicer cars, a bigger house, has lead our society to become increasingly depressed. Depression and suicide rates have skyrocketed in the last fifty years. It’s understandable because it seems that life was a lot simpler back then. You didn’t have to get a college degree to make good money, you probably lived in a modest house with some children, not to mention they didn’t have Iphones back then to keep their minds occupied at all times. Life now is so crazy, Gregoire says, we are always looking for the next best thing. Gaining wealth and possessions is increasingly more important. And if you can out do your neighbor then that’s even better!
Despite what a lot of researchers say, thinking about this topic further, a question kept coming to my mind. What about people who do get true happiness from material things? What if they value their purchases more than they value their relationships? Does that make them bad and not truly happy? There are people I know who like to seclude themselves from the world, because other people and social interactions give them anxiety. Rather than socialize, these people normally are found solitary, sitting inside at their desk playing games on their computer. Some would say that they can’t truly be happy because objects can’t bring true happiness. But to me it looks like they are perfectly happy staying at their desk playing their game. A lot more happy than if they were at a party with all this social anxiety. Even though we may say that relationships bring life meaning and that material possessions simply can’t bring that same kind of happiness, is there a possibility that just maybe, some people benefit more from possessions than from interactions with people?
I've come to the conclusion that the “good life” differs for many people, it's not a fact or formula. Some people are happier with material possessions. But most people find more lasting happiness over having close relationships, and adventures. It depends on personality. Some people really don’t like interacting with others, it makes them anxious, so objects may make their life more enjoyable because they don’t have to worry about other people. Most like their possessions, but the happiness that they bring fade after a week or two. So they rely on friendships and other relationships so they can have lasting happiness. The last type of person could not like interacting with people, but love going on adventures by themselves. Therefore, they need experiences to be happy. You just have to discover what brings you true, lasting happiness, depending on your personality it will be different. But once we find a balance and put our happiness as a priority in our lives, we can all attain our uniquely personal, “good life”.