Reading Commentary Week #3: Why We Need Things

Reading “Why We Need Things” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi was fascinating.  Though this was something I’ve already known in my own subconscious and observations, it was nice to read through something that was well articulated.

I’ve always wondered about the evolution of things and products that surrounded our lives.  Especially living in Los Angeles, where there was always an excess of materialism to a point where it’s nauseating.  I often asked, how did we as humans ever get here?

Of course I’ve known about the evolution of tools from Cro-magnon era up to now.  We’ve always— as humans— been innovative creatures who invent things for the sake of efficiency.  And with Mihaly’s observation— agree that there’s been a huge evolution of these objects and things.

They have enhanced our lives in more ways than one.  I agree that a lot of these objects and artifacts, we’ve been able to have a reciprocated relationship (i.e. house provides shelter).  Also in agreement with what he’s written about a lot of these objects also provided symbols and as extensions of our individuality.  Meaning, things have symbolized our worth through out the years, and the more expensive or exclusive things are, the more costly, whether monetary or endangering the natural environment.

Here is something though Mihaly didn’t really touch up on, unless I skipped it somehow.

That while these things can be used as symbols or our identity or that it can stabilize our consciousness, it can also be used to mislead people.  I only say this because as I mentioned, I’ve lived in Los Angeles, where it’s the capital of excess.  People like to show off their expensive cars, clothes, and other materialistic things, mainly to project and image of prestige and wealth.  In the meantime it’s all bought on credit, the cars are leased and they’re in 100K debt.  Things and objects can also be used as an illusion that can distort a person’s view and consciousness.  Perhaps these are a special case of people who need things because they really want that vision of themselves.

Overall, I enjoy reading this piece very much.  I particularly liked reading the part about that objects can reciprocate emotions and symbolize important memories (and not just shelter or some sort of survival tool).  Like the trombone, how that thing has alleviated stress and worry whenever the wealthy lawyer played it.  And with that I’ve always had my mother keep every trophy and medals that I’ve won when I was younger… These objects were cheaply made but it symbolized all my hard work and a time of greatness for me, I was a champion once, it’s nice to know or be reminded of that sometimes when spirits get low.

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