Affluence Without Abundance
Affluence Without Abundance
That’s the way Marshall Sahlins, an anthropologist and author, described the nomadic way of life that humans led for hundreds of thousands of years. A life where an abundance of materialistic things was not only irrelevant, but a hindrance. Our ancestors lived a life of simplicity, to which they were rewarded greatly. Just not in the way that we picture being rewarded.
Our Ancestors weren’t the stupid, brutish creatures that we’ve seen portrayed in movies and commercials. They didn’t wander around all day, grunting and clubbing each other over the head with a pterodactyl femur. Okay, they did wander around a lot, but the grunting and clubbing was on par with modern man. What most of us fail to understand is that our ancestors had a far more complex society than we believed possible. What that lacked in materialistic items, “things”, the made up for in true wealth.
They sat around a fire (which was a treasure in its own right), talking, eating, and laughing. They made music and sang (likely a weird mix of animal sound mimicry). They were present, and grateful. They were connected.
And, that’s sort of the thing: connecting. A pursuit of abundance has a disconnecting effect.
When I read Marshall Sahlins statement, it immediately got me to thinking. Perhaps it’s because I had just spent a week completely removing most of my possessions in what our household referred to as “The Purge”. We Donated over twenty-five bags to the local donation center. These items were mostly clothes that hadn’t been worn in ages, most didn’t even fit my daughters anymore. There were bags of toys that had been long forgotten. There were numerous CD’s (I actually still owned quite a few), and then bags of other miscellaneous items.
Doing so was exhausting, physically and mentally, but when we were done we sat around in a house that suddenly felt lighter, like a load had been taken off of the foundation. In a weird way, I felt like a load had been taken off my shoulders, as well.
I thought about that all night, then I read that statement in a book I was reading and nearly laughed at the irony. The next day, I had dismissed my euphoria as a side effect of an abundance of cold brews that I consumed that day, when suddenly my wife turned to me and said, “It’s weird, but I feel like donating all of that stuff made my mind feel less cluttered.”
What a funny concept, that less things can somehow make you feel better.
Times have changed since the days of our ancestors, and what was once scarce is now abundant. What was once a hindrance, is now a luxury. An abundance of food. An abundance of entertainment. An abundance wealth. In fact, we live in a society that worships materialistic wealth. The rich and vapid are glorified on reality shows like “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” or “The Real Housewives of (insert city)”.
Wealth and the collection of more “things” is often seen as a solution to many people’s woes. If I had more money, I’d be happier. If I had a better house, better clothes, nicer car, or bigger TV, then maybe I’d feel better. And, maybe you would for a short period of time.
I’m not claiming to be above this. I certainly wouldn’t turn down a Rolls Royce Phantom and a massive home up in the Hollywood Hills (Come on, who would?). Let’s be honest, a G5 sounds amazing, right? What about a yacht? If you insist. But, will these things make me a happier person? Will they make me a better Father? Husband? Brother? Friend?
Alex, my good friend, and co-host of Neanderthal Radio, says, “Money doesn’t change people, it only amplifies who you really are.”
If you’re an asshole, well the world is about to meet an even bigger asshole. If your depressed, angry, or pessimistic, a few extra zeros in your bank account aren’t going to fix that. That’s like trying to cure obesity by developing weight loss pills, gastric bypass, and lap band. These products, while occasionally effective, never address what was broken in that person. They are merely a Band-Aid that is placed over the problem. They never address what caused that problem, or how to permanently fix it.
Affluence is a noun that means, “the state of having a great deal of wealth”. Wealth is defined not only as “an abundance of valuable possessions or money” but also as “A state of being rich”. Rich is also defined as, “of great value or worth; valuable.”
Where I’m going with this, and I do have some vague direction, is that wealth and riches needn’t be of the materialistic orientation. It is simply the matter of changing the way you define affluence, wealth, and riches. They can also be defined as, “The state of having a great deal of, or abundance of value”.
So the question then becomes, “What do you value?”
I think the answer to that question has been the same for every human since we learned to stand on two feet: love, friendship, freedom, community, and relaxation.
This is in no way a call to return to primitive times, or to rebel against the marketing beast that we’ve fed, and allowed to grow out of control. We can never go back, but we can change the way we perceive wealth.
There’s so much value in the little things; things that we’ve overlooked or simply dismissed because it isn’t shiny or expensive, or because some corporation has yet to devise a means of bottling it up and selling it to you. We need to take stock of all of the worth we have all around us, and to learn to recognize the value in the little things. A good conversation with a close friend, the simple act of laughing unexpectedly, holding your child in your arms, the touch of the one you love, sitting around a campfire with people you care about, sipping a cold beer on a hot summer day as you watch the sun set at the lake (even if that beer is super low carb because you’re on a ketogenic diet). There’s value all around you. Little moments that are worth more than any amount of money could buy.
I only ask that we all see the value of the everyday things that we take for granted or overlooked, and to appreciate that which truly has worth. We should all seek to be rich in mind and soul.
What do you value?
Meet the Writer
Ryan N Gray
Author, Blogger, Podcaster. Founder of Modern Day Neanderthal. Connoisseur of tattoos and butter coffee. Bare foot living, functional fitness, and fresh food lover. Trying to live keto in a world full of carbs.