The Nature of Abundance

There were far more intriguing ideas in Boldt’s chapter entitled “The Nature of Abundance,” than I have time to discuss. Some of the most interesting ideas have to to with the acceptance of the Yin, or feminine, receptive side of our nature. He made me re-examine my willingness to accept from others rather than just wanting to give to others. You’ll have to read the book yourself, though, to explore those ideas.

No, in the middle of Christmas season, and the constant barrage of advertising, I was more impressed with the wisdom found in these ideas:

In modern commercial culture, the excitement of these artificial desires is indispensable to the endless quest to “develop new markets” and keep the economy booming. As Akio Morita, founder of the Sony corporation, put it, “We do not market a product that has been developed already, but develop a market for the product we make.”‘ In other words, first create a desire, then build a product that will seem to fulfill it. This kind of market development relies on what Lao Tzu called the “incitement to envy,” which he decried as the worst of all sins:

No sin can exceed
Incitement to envy;
No calamity’s worse
Than to be discontented.

-Lao Tzu

Of course, I used to teach this concept when I taught mass media many years ago, but when you’re constantly barraged by advertising it’s easy to lose sight of just how manipulative large companies are. You only have to listen to your children or grandchildren, though, to rediscover the extent that advertisers undermine our feelings that we have everything we need to be happy, everything that is except a new Intel-powered Mac Pro. Perhaps we should start a non-profit organization to sponsor ads featuring these lines from Lao Tzu during every Christmas season.

Worst of all, Boldt argues that this approach makes it impossible to feel satisfied even if we buy the products advertised:

It is the avowed mission of the commercial advertiser to insure that we are never content with what we have. While ego desires have been around for as long as human beings, never before in human history has there been such a massive and organized effort to promote them. Anyone who doubts the impact of advertising in shaping world culture simply needs to travel more. The large corporations who fund it certainly believe they are getting their money’s worth. Recently, it was reported that one large manufacturer of athletic shoes paid more to a single celebrity athlete who endorsed its products than it did to its entire third world workforce who actually made the shoes. While the world of advertising and commercial television offers an abundant array of material objects, it relies on a psychology of lack to promote and sell them. The message is clear: without the products being sold, you are not enough, your life is incomplete. Each time we buy something on this basis, we reinforce the feeling of lack. We can never get to a feeling of abundance starting from a feeling of lack. To free ourselves from this kind of influence, it isn’t necessary to reject the material objects themselves, only the idea that we aren’t good enough without them.

If you buy into the idea that you must have certain things to maintain your status among your friends or community, it’s impossible to ever feel secure about the status you’ve attained because you constantly have to buy the latest thing in order to maintain that status. Who can ever have “enough” with that kind of mind state?

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