Envy in a commoditized world

Today I had a little chat with some colleague of mine about my move to Canada. He asked about contacts and made a couple of jokes about maple syrup as a souvenir from Canada. I told him that I will give everyone an excessive number of ways to contact me and told him that I am an active blogger, so he would be able to read about my Canadian experience if he wishes to do so. The colleague of mine apparently liked idea of reading my blog and said something like this:

“We’re going to envy you, read it and say: here is how people live!..”

I guess this was a joke as well 🙂 I thought about it and decided to say a few words about envy. There is some certain type of envy, that is very well illustrated on this demotivator picture:

This is a pretty stupid and helpless type of envy and I believe it is on a way out from the world we live in.

We live in a such an age when all physical stuff being converted into commodities. If money burn a hole in your pocket, you can still have a unique mansion designed and built for you by a famous architecture and construction firm. You can probably have a luxury car that only a handful of people in a world can afford to buy. You can eat the juiciest fruits in coldest winter, you can have your mansion heated or cooled with a perfect climate control system at any time of the year. You probably can even have a home that guesses your desires…

But think about one thing… How your experience driving Rolls-Royce is going to be different from driving… Honda? Well, of course, Rolls-Royce is more pleasant, yes, the first time it will feel fantastic, but when you own it and use it every day.. the wow-feelings go away and it is just a transportation, expensive, convenient transportation. Do you think owner of Rolls-Royce is happier than some middle-class owner of Honda? Probably a little happier, but I doubt this is due to an excellence of Rolls-Royce.

The same thing about housing. Well, it is quite nice to live in a mansion. But living in a mid-sized standard house where many American middle-class families live doesn’t suck at all. Yes, you feel a little better in a mansion stuffed with all high-tech toys currently exist… But this feeling of yourself being exceptional fades over time and buying expensive stuff doesn’t revive it for long. So anyway you have to find some new drug, not just hoarding stuff…

In a world of mass production and aggressively cheap vendor-sponsored financing almost anything rapidly becomes available for people of moderate income. 15 years ago you might feel envy about a person who had a cell phone. This was a sign of ‘status’ and ‘success’. Today it is a sign of nothing. Everyone has one or two of them (I know a few teenagers who have three). In Soviet Union a person with a car had every reason to feel himself exceptional because you have to save your money for 10 years or so to buy it. Today we have so many cars on streets, so a person with a job and without a car is considered rather maverick.

The envy I felt has never been related to stuff people around own. Yes, when I was a 5-7 years old I wanted some toys other boys had, but since I left the elementary school I have never felt that stuff is important. I still don’t have a car, yet I can buy one at any time. I can buy an apartment in the city I was born in, I just don’t want. What I crave is a change. A dynamic life that brings development and change to me and allows me speaking to smart people only. That is something I like.

When I compare myself with some classmate or friend, what I look for is a life dynamics. I want a fast-paced life. I want to reach a peak, an edge of what is possible in terms of positive experience. Someone just got a position in Google and I am fixing some stupid bug in enterprise software? Too bad, I have to go and do something! I shouldn’t be on a lower levels of a life experience. I have to actively change my life in a way I want it to change and stuff is irrelevant. I can have all the stuff to bring me comparable level of comfort, but this is not the point. The point is to be as engaged in your life as the best of us are. If you feel that someone else is better at it than you are, it is a good reason for envy and self-motivation to do something. Looking at stuff is meaningless, because people who really live their life don’t really see their stuff as an achievement. They just use it.

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2 Responses to Envy in a commoditized world

  1. Great post. Good luck in Canada.

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