Materialism is often frowned upon in many spiritual circles. After all, the physical world is the source of many of our problems in life. Or at least our association with it can be a problem. But perhaps society has developed a false perspective on the physical world. Somewhere along the lines, materialism got mixed up with the delights of living a life of physical means. There is a distinction albeit it is mostly one of attitude and belief.
In general our society is very materialistic; everything is about ownership, and status. The relationship we develop with material items is one of possession, rather than experience. It is the difference between owning a house rather than living in a home. Another example is having a car as a status symbol rather than as a means to travel and the pleasure of driving.
Adverts display this contrast very clearly; what they show is that the things we own tell a story about who we are. In many ways we externalise our relationship with our possessions, we ‘decorate’ ourselves with them so-to-speak. In this context materialism is about accumulation, and attempting to enhance our being by surrounding ourselves with possessions.
It is often said that we believe we can find happiness from this way of living. The problem being this is a largely superficial relationship to the physical world. It has little to do with what we experience and everything to do with how we are perceived and escapism.
The physical world has a lot to teach us, and life is largely a physical existence (to state the obvious). That means the problem isn’t with physical pleasures and desires themselves. Take this example for instance; music is a deeply profound part of our existence – and we can express that through singing or with a musical instrument such as a piano. In this case the piano becomes an experience, it is a part of who we are, an extension of our physical living. Conversely many people have a piano in the house as a ‘piece of furniture’ (you often hear that phrase regarding pianos).
The same can be said of any other physical object in our life; as I mentioned with the car. We can posses the idea of the car and the car itself. Or we can own the experience the car provides. And in between these two polarities is the functional aspect of the car.
The functionalism of these material objects allows us to experience a greater diversity of life, and provides us with the necessities of living. And through these we can come to a greater understanding and balanced relationship with physical life. The way I see it – that is what our physical existence is meant to be about. We are here for the experience of living and learning the deeper meanings and aspects of life.