“The meaning of things lies not in the things themselves but in our attitude towards them.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery
In societies today, there seems to be an attitude among people that things are what is most important in life. And this although it is not a recent trend, it is much stronger now than before because of the amazing intrusiveness and amount of advertising. Nowadays, we are constantly bombarded from TV, online, and on radio that the more things we possess, the better our lives will be. And so effective is it, that we even advertise for them without realizing it through the clothes we wear, the cars we drive, the things we watch, and the things we say and do.
It is important that we remember that things themselves bring nothing to our lives. It is only through the importance that we give them, the meaning that we assign them, that they gain any significance at all. And this importance is a result of the ways in which we see these things.
I personally like to follow one simple rule of thumb when it comes to the things that I possess: If I cannot be without it of my own free will, then it possesses me, and I need to work on becoming free from it.
Your spirit is not free if there is anything that holds power over you–whether that is something as simple as soda, cigarettes, or your new “toy”, or as complex as using other people or an addiction to pleasures of the flesh.
I truly want to be able to lose any thing that I have and not have it affect my state of mind or my happiness. I know things can be simply functional for me, and I can enjoy them without finding an unnecessary need in them. And as such, I want to focus instead on improving those parts of my life that are not material–my intellect, my ability to do my job, my family, my spirit–lest I neglect those other parts of me that should never be neglected.
Sometimes we ask ourselves, “What does this mean to me?” But virtually nothing in our lives has meaning that we do not assign to it–what some see as a disaster, others see as opportunity or a challenge. Thus it is important to keep in mind that things are meant to be functional, not integral, as we prioritize our attitudes in life.
Questions to consider:
What meanings do you give to things in your life? Are you constantly aware of the fact that you are assigning meaning?
What things in your life might have more meaning than they truly deserve? How did they achieve that meaning?
Why do we tend to place so much meaning on things? What other options do we have?
For further thought:
“No doubt we would all agree with the sentiment: “There’s more to life than things.” Yet much of our lives seem to be spent in the acquisition, maintenance, and disposal of material goods. Certainly we cannot enjoy the basics of food, shelter, and clothing without a concern for things. The truly important things of life, however, are those which cannot be encountered by the physical senses, purchased with money, or placed on a shelf. When we take a look at what we value most in life, we generally find family, friends, health, peace, contentment, laughter, helping others, and communion with God foremost on our list of priorities.” – Unattributed