I’m trying to figure out the difference between what is really important and things that aren’t, yet I give them a lot of undue importance. Although I think in the society we live in now it’s very easy and encouraged to give importance to things that don’t need it; such as material objects (what clothes we wear, our phone, how our lives are perceived by others online). It’s so easy to judge others by how much they are obsessed with material objects and others perceptions of themselves, whilst simultaneously doing it ourselves, although on (what we perceive to be) a lesser level. I might say I don’t care what others think of me, but then go on to choose the ‘best’ selfie or photo to upload to Instagram, and spend time thinking of what caption to put with it. Surely if I truly didn’t care what others thought of me I wouldn’t even upload to Instagram?
I recently read Derren Brown’s book ‘Happy’ and found a thought experiment within it by William B. Irvine. Irvine describes a situation where you wake up, and there is no one else on the planet (from what you can tell). However everything (houses, shops etc) is exactly how it was left the day before; electricity still works, cars are left where they were parked. Pretty much it’s just like the world we are in now, just you are the only person. He acknowledges that we would of course be lonely, however for the sake of this experiment we are to ignore the emotional aspect and only think about the material. We can live in whichever house we want, drive whichever car, have all the latest gadgets, fashionable clothes etc. What would we do? We might take advantage of this for a while, and maybe enjoy all these luxuries, however eventually all of these material objects will lose their meaning if there was no one else around. The interesting question is, without other people would we even want all these material things? What’s the point in driving a fancy car if there’s no one to show off to? We’d likely lose all interest in our physical appearance and only have the necessities to live (a small, manageable house, warm clothes).
I found this thought experiment extremely thought provoking. I think most of what I do is for the benefit of others more than myself, or to benefit myself because of what I want others to think of me. I would like to try living more mindful of this but I’m not really sure where to start. I think I must begin with researching this school of thought more in depth and remembering this thought experiment from time to time, so that’s what I’ll be doing. I’m in charge of what I give importance to.