The Never-Ending Quest for the Latest and Greatest
A friend of mine recently asked me if I had already gotten the new iPhone 13. When I replied that I was unaware that there were now more incarntations of the iPhone than there were Friday the 13th movies, they quickly surmised that I had not. I mean, should I? What has this one got that I simply need to rush out and get myself into yet another cellular contract with enough import and implausible duration to warrant the request of prenup? Does this one inform me of the vaccination status of all people within a 500 foot radius? Does it have the capability to drive my kids to soccer practice? Can it make a mean taco salad? Is it finally able to withstand me dropping it all the time? Because to be perfectly honest, I really haven’t understood a single upgrade on the damn things since they came out almost 15 years ago. I call. I text. I surf nerdy and undesirable things on the internet. I cyberstalk ex-girlfriends on the Facebook. My iPhone 6 did all those things. Well, until my son dropped it into a hot spring in Glenwood, but that’s another story.
The fact is that we all get drawn into having to have the latest and greatest like insects hovering compulsively before a sparkly light. This rampant commercialism is all-pervasive in this unfettered sideshow of free-market capitalism we’ve come to know as the United States. Fueled by ever-present marketing that bombards each and every aspect of our routine daily existences with an onslaught of advertisements for products ranging from chic designer watches to anal creams, we are consistently being told that our lives will somehow be empty and shallow, devoid of meaning and fun, unless we have….well…everything. And not just everything- the latest of everything. Without it, you’re missing out.
But I’ve never been one to buy into any of that nonsense, and I have to tell you, I don’t feel like I am missing out on a damn thing. Screw their Apple Watch. Forget the newest auto trends. Fuck the iPhone 13. Appreciate what you have and live your life without all the crap you’ll be throwing on a trash heap no more than a couple years from now.
I have never bought a new car in my life. But other people sure do. They trade in their cars after just a couple years because they want the latest model. Or they lease like a desperate crack whore just wanting another hit on the crack pipe of that new car smell. And thank heavens they do. Because I buy their cars when they are done with them, paying half the price for a car that still has three-fourths of its drivable miles remaining. Sure, I have to get their stupid, “My Kid is an Honor Roll Student” sticker off the back (because even though my kids are also on the honor roll, I- and my kids for that matter-would never be caught dead with that thing on my car), but in the end I get a much nicer ride than I should never be able to afford.
And let’s not even get started with my wardrobe. Sure, my clothes are all just fine, and I have my share of professional attire for when the occasion actually calls for it, but the vast majority of my closet is filled with jeans and t-shirts I’ve had since shortly after graduating college. I’m the guy that hyper-judgy, narcissistic hipsters look at scrupulously and nod their head in approval, thinking that everything I have on is somehow intentionally ironic when really I’ve just lived and not given a shit long enough to watch all my original clothes come back to being cool again because their now considered vintage retro. Oh I’m sure I don’t look nearly as dapper and natty as some metrosexual 20 something with their hair perfectly quaffed, but I genuinely just don’t care. And my girlfriend consistently tells me that that is the sexiest thing about me. And while I am well-aware that she is probably just placating me, I am more than happy being placated.
I remember being asked by my high school Humanities teacher to define the word “happiness”. My answer even then was “the state of wanting nothing”. How very Buddhist of my 12th grade self. But when you really step back and think about it, that definition has quite an informative perspective to it. It is our desire for more and more things that make us suffer. When what we want is equal to what we already have, when we are grateful for everything in our lives and have no need for anything else, we are, by definition, at a state of contentment.
The problem in our modern beleaguering market place is that we are perpetually being told to focus on the “what we have” part of the equation, to keep trying to get more things to make us happy. Buy a new car, and you’ll be happy. Buy a new phone, and you’ll be happy. Buy a new vibrator, and you’ll be happy (ok, that one might actually be true). The problem is, though, that the strife is unceasing; once we get the thing we want, we simply want more. Caught in an incessant cycle of want and procurement, we become the family dog chasing its tail out on the lawn. What we have is never enough, and we become doomed to a state of discontent.
Instead, we should be focusing our attention on lessening our desires, the “what we want” part of the equation. By being happy with what we already have, we move towards a state of true contentment and bliss. You simply stop giving a shit and are all the happier for it. Gratitude is the source of all true happiness, for it is internal to ourselves, and that is alive and well as long as we are. Our phones and cars and vibrators- all these will someday die, as will our attachment to them. But happiness that comes from within is eternal. So forget about getting the latest iPhone and be happy with what you have.
Steven Craig is the author of the best-selling novel WAITING FOR TODAY, as well as numerous published poems, short stories, and dramatic works. Read his blog TRUTH: In 1000 Words or Less every THURSDAY at www.waitingfortoday.com