Being raised in a society where your success is directly correlated with your material possessions can tarnish what it means to be a human being on this planet. We’ve come a long way since subsistence living and have created more products and luxuries to create a safe and comfortable existence. While the use of these pleasantries can be as delightful as a popsicle in the Mohave desert, they can also detract from what is possible when you’re a highly intelligent mammal.
We need the visceral feelings of blood pumping through your legs as you reach the crest of a ridge or a stiff breeze on your face looking out to a roaring sea. This is what it means to be alive. But it’s easy to be distracted by the newest, shiniest commodity and forget about the excitement gained from traveling into the unknown. Is adventure dead or have all of the material possessions clouded our view. I think of the most important things I own and I always fall back to old photographs. Sure they are material, but they are also a portal to a place where I was “doing.”
Framed on a bookshelf is a photo of myself and a close friend 500 feet high on a tiny rock ledge, tethered to the wall only by our ropes and equipment. Just one look and I am transported back to that perch in Zion National Park, UT. My hands start to sweat, my throat swells, I see the birds of prey circling the grandiose sandstone walls. That is feeling alive. Ironically in my experiences the closer I get to death, the more alive I feel. And that day we we’re a mere speck in a vertical world, a most improbable position and the one we came for.
No amount of money, 5 star meals or sports cars would ever give me that sense of adventure. And my necessity to prove to the world with what I’ve purchased, completely dissolved. I knew the path to my contentment didn’t lie in a savings account, it flew with the swallows and swam with the fish. My validation was the smile of a friend from across the campfire or a high five on the summit of a peak.
It’s been over ten years since I cast away the notion of measuring myself by my socioeconomic status and it hasn’t all been easy. There have been many broken down cars, medical bills and a lot of spaghetti and butter. But I have gained comfort in knowing that I do not need material gluttony to be fulfilled.
It’s easy to lose sight of this in our commerce driven society, but if you take a moment to look back it’s clear to see how experiences heavily outweigh materialism. So take time to breathe the night air, forget how others view you and get back to your roots. When you’re sitting in that inevitable rocking chair you won’t be thinking of what you had, but what you have done.