TRAVEL is a pure metaphor for our life’s journey.
There are two choices in the way we can travel. We can travel light or we can load up on stuff and literally become a beast of burden. The reality for most of us is that we heft and carry far too much physical and emotional baggage over time. I am focusing on the physical baggage aspect only. The emotional baggage aspect is yet for another day.
Our journey becomes tedious and cumbersome. All we want when we are too heavily laden with stuff while on the road, at sea or in flight, is to get to our destination fast so we can rest our weary bones and aching muscles and put our feet up. The fun is gone because tedium and fatigue have taken over.
It shouldn’t be so because there is truth in what they say about any journey. Half the fun should be getting there.
Very few of us are born wise old souls who already know what is important and what is frivolous at the get-go from a very young age.
For most of us ordinary beings who have to learn from scratch, our learning curves can be steep. It takes a long while for us to know the difference between a NEED and a WANT.
We all know the drill. Needs are the things required for basic human existence: food, shelter and clothing. Wants are those that our ego or an infomercial tells us we should acquire to feel better, look better and improve our status in society such as the latest car model, the new smartphone, large screen TV sets or luxury items or anything else that advertisers tell us we ought to have to make our lives better or feel important.
The distinction should be easy enough if our mental faculties are grounded in common sense and just basic understanding of what is important and what isn’t.
Those of us who have wise parents may try to tell us so until they are blue in the face but for the most part, unless and until we go through life experiences that shape our understanding and appreciation of what truly matters in life, it is guaranteed that we will bungle our way through just learning to distinguish between a basic need and a frivolous want.
A need is probably owning one quality watch to help us manage our time. A want is having 12 different watches to match what we wear.
We will acquire mountains of stuff through our lifetimes. It’s not our fault we live in a consumer society where acquiring stuff is the default behavior. Consider the success of companies that rent out public storage spaces. If you are one of those who rent such spaces in addition to your home’s bulging garage and storage spaces for long periods of time, it may be time to assess the quality of your life’s journey and begin divesting promptly, either gradually or drastically and choosing to travel light. The stuff we acquire is just that. Stuff and nothing more……
When we own something, that something owns us. We are responsible for its care and maintenance to keep it functioning and useful. When that something has outgrown its usefulness or has become passé, we are responsible for its disposition. When we acquire something new, we probably need to dispose of 3 other items, just to keep us in balance.
One day, if we let ourselves listen and learn from that small, quiet and wise voice within us, we will discover that important things are not stuff. They are largely intangible things — like health of mind, body and spirit, faith, hope and love, joy, sacrifice, a sense of wonder and humor to cushion us from the rough shocks of life.
So next time we find ourselves meandering about armed to the teeth with credit cards in those huge shopping malls, outlets or flea markets, try to go on browsing mode only. Hold off on splurging next month’s paycheck. This is likewise true for those who go online shopping, indulging themselves in retail therapy in the comfort of their own homes in their pajamas. Look at the merchandise and appreciate the craftsmanship and give yourself time to decide if owning it will answer a need or just satisfy an impulsive want.
Window shop, if you must. It would be like going to a museum where you can look, appreciate beauty and quality while having a great time and leaving as light and unencumbered as you came in, without a shopping cart full of stuff.
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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.
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Nota Bene: Monette Adeva Maglaya is SVP of Asian Journal Publications, Inc. To send comments, e-mail monette.maglaya@asianjournalinc.