When I was a child I learned that the Swiss were famous for chocolate, watches, and banking. And from knowing this I felt worldly. But then I met a Swiss man who explained to me that there was much more to the country than just that, which made me feel ignorant. But not to long after I met him I traveled to Switzerland and experienced Montreux. And by doing so I once again felt worldly. But not to long after that someone told me that I really should have gone to Geneva, which, once again, made me feel ignorant.
I’ve not yet visited Geneva, but I bet if I did, I’d feel worldly again – for a bit. At least until someone tells me that where Switzerland is truly amazing is in a small mountain village one can only visit by chopper. Because then, once again, I would feel as though I’m lacking of something.
It is often difficult to distinguish whether something is an inherent human trait or societal influence – like if monogamy is rooted in civilization or nature. The question I often wonder though is if the “have/have not” mentality is resultant of western culture or human nature. Because both in others, and myself, I easily see that self-image is largely reliant on what we’ve had, or have.
I most definitely am not the first person, or the last, to say that humans are never satisfied. But one thing I’ve come to realize in myself is that I view experiences the same way others view possessions. For just like my buddy dreams of a new BMW, I dream of trekking into the Arctic Circle. In our minds, each dream seems to promise an image that we desire – for him wealth, for me adventure.
There is a fault to our dreams though, and one that I do credit directly to western culture. It is that in both my friend and I expect a predetermined return on our time investments. We believe that if we do X, we will get Y – ignorant of the fact that life doesn’t work that way.
Very, very few people want a BMW, a trip to Paris 1st Class, or to backpack Patagonia; they want an image. They want to think of themselves as highly as they do the people who have, or have had, those things they want. However, the ways that we choose to reach that image are fickle or quickly depreciate, which makes are image equally as unstable.
It always makes me laugh when people return home after having traveled to third world countries, because if they had come into contact with impoverished people, they never fail to mention how amazing it was to see people so happy with so little. This makes me laugh because I believe they are wrong in that these people are not “so happy” with “so little” – trust me, they’d much prefer to have what you have. Instead, they never were able to equate happiness with having; they learned to find happiness immaterially.
That may have been a slight tangent…but it was not to far off course. It ties back into the subject by showing how unfulfilling our mentality of “get” can be. “What can I get out of this?” “Get out of that?” For whether it is an adult dreaming of a vacation home in the alps or a 14-year-old dreaming to lose his virginity, pursuing a dream for image will always prove a disappointment.