I was sick last week after feeling pretty burnt out and spent a couple of days on the sofa indulging in some trash TV. My content of choice was Gossip Girl, a series that I’d never seen when it first aired but was just the ticket for some visual stimulation without a taxing plot to follow.
The series follows the impossibly extravagant lives of high school seniors that attend an elite New York school. It’s not exactly a source of inspiration for a minimalist, but one quote did hit a chord. I can’t remember the verbatim, but it went something like “We don’t live in the real world. We use our money to build our own world, so we don’t have to.”
It really got me thinking about how we all do that. Okay, it’s not as extreme as the characters in the show who jet off to the South of France to get over a break-up, but it’s still true for us all to some extent.
At the most basic level we use our money to shelter ourselves, tap into a reliable source of food and keep us secure. We create a world that is separate to the natural environment, with houses and supermarkets and cars. This can become our only experience of the world and we can forget what it is like to be a natural human.
At another level, we use the things we buy to create a façade for the real, social world. We buy clothes that project an desirable image of ourselves, fill our bookshelves with what we want to be seen to be reading, and stuff our cupboards with the paraphernalia of activities that we want to be associated with. We spend more on our appearance than we do developing our identity. And we experience other people’s façades constantly through social media.
At the extreme level, we use money to wholly create our own world in which we only experience comfort and pleasure. The ordinary struggle of life and all its complexities is dulled with constant dopamine hits. We build walls of light entertainment, processed and sugary food, and shiny trinkets until they are so high that we can’t see what it’s really like out there. We live in our very own dream worlds, just like the inception movie. We no longer feel pain, but we no longer feel joy either.
Some of these detached feelings can be a symptom of burn out, which I’m aware I’ve been suffering from recently. But I do think modern life and our own evolutionary pathways have set us up to remove us more and more from the real world.
I’m not saying I’m going to go out and live in the bush, but I am thinking about how much reality is poking through into my world at the moment.
Has anyone else ever felt this disconnection? What helped you get back in touch with reality?