“The idea that you need to go bigger to be happy is false,” she says. “I really believe that the acquisition of material goods doesn’t bring about happiness.”The desire to acquire and accumulate is as innate in us as anything, but the counter-impulse, to live with less and pursue a more spiritual path, is also extremely ancient. My view is that people differ in this as in most qualities; for some, the acquisition and treasuring of material things really leads to happiness, but for many it does not.
There have been a lot of stories lately about how the recession has led people to cut back their spending, pay down their debts and emphasize non-material things. This trend is real and measurable; the savings rate in America is above 6% now, after staying around 1% for most of the past decade. Most likely this is a temporary blip, but you never know. The wisdom of "living within your means" is also very old, and it has a compelling logic.
When I consider myself, I find that there are material things that mean a great deal to me. Our wireless internet router failed over the weekend, and the loss of that was a major crisis. I find it hard to imagine raising my big family in a little house. I spend a huge amount of time in my car, and its cd player and ipod dock are important to me, since they transform driving time into time spent listening to books or music. But on the whole I remain convinced that what really matters can't be bought: friendship, love, good memories, fond hopes, knowledge, understanding, humor, wonder, appreciation for all that is good and beautiful on the world. If my house burned down tomorrow -- provide my children and pets were safe -- I would laugh.