Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The cult of more.


Just a short rant today, and yes, you can flag it as such. As well, make sure you quote back to me William Strunk if you think I run on.
I was struck the other day when a one-time client was complaining about an ongoing problem they had. Once again, in their effort to deal with this issue, they expressed an interest in purchasing a gadget they had seen recently that they felt would solve the problem. I didn't have the fortitude to point out to them (as I actually have in the past), that they had already sunk money and time into other purchases and schemes for getting the outcome they wanted with the materials they had at hand, when if they changed just a few small aspects of their behaviour, the problem would just go away.
To my mind, they had lost sight of what they really wanted to accomplish. The solution to their specific concern isn't complicated, and it can't really be solved by purchasing just one more stick of RAM, or one more cooling fan, or one more type of drill, or one more home entertainment component, or one more book, or one more article of clothing.
It's funny how people are far more willing to pay money to try to shape their world and their life the way they want it, than to change their actions or their expectations. (n.b. but not ha ha funny...) I think this is a real challenge for humanity as a whole to overcome in the future. We think that if we just switch to environmentally friendly fuels, or sources of energy, or less BPA, or more fibre, or whatever, we can go on living the way we have been, which ISN'T really the status quo, it's actually increasing consumption on every level. We no longer recognize that while our needs are finite and it's perhaps still possible to meet them ethically, our wants are infinite if they are not controlled. As well, fulfilling our wants more and more directly means that we are taking away from someone else's basic needs. What facilitates this is the fact that most of those people aren't in our face any more. They generally live in the third world countries where we extract their resources and their labour, while allowing our pollution to either drift back or even worse, we directly ship it to them!
Einstein once suggested that when solving a problem, he would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem and only five minutes finding the solution. One takeaway from this quote that I get is that good solutions really aren't difficult to find, it's just that so many of them require us to accept that much of the problem lies within us, and we have to take the time to strip away our notions of what we can or should do to get to the heart of what we want to see happen.
Personally, I have found myself often solving problems very inefficiently by trying to purchase quick-fixes, or rig up complicated solutions, to problems that only existed in my mind. I have spent days setting up email filters to deal with single pieces of junk mail, with a delete key that I refused to press. Or the big dollars spent on exercise equipment and supplements to help me lose weight, when eating less and attending aikido more works so much better, and has so many positive spin offs.
In any case, I guess what I really want to express is how I've discovered that solutions to just about any problem you may encounter are best solved by eliminating things, starting with expectations, followed closely by one's perceived inability to take the steps required to come up with a lasting conclusion to whatever issue is at hand.

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