Tangibles versus Intangibles

Neithongunuo Angela Belho

The fast changing world offers us a lot of false promises and attractions which mislead and deceive us. We are liable to be drawn into the false security of a culture of tangible things. “What are you looking for?” “What exactly are you yearning for in order to lead a happy and a contented life?” are very relevant and challenging questions today. 

Nobody is superior. Nobody is inferior, but nobody is equal either. People are simply unique and incomparable. You are you and I am I. If we understand this truth loving one another will be possible instead of loving tangibles. And if this happens all our wants and things we desire will no longer be as important as it is to us at present.

Happiness and contentment is something we all want, but how many of us know how to achieve it. Material wealth is not the answer. For rich and poor alike, the desire to have more newer, better, fancier material things seems to be a fact of human nature, However, this cannot help us obtain the true sense of contentment, which is a fact every single one of us know at the back of our minds but continues to ignore it and is not ready to accept it.

There is nothing wrong with wanting the best luxuries in life. To some degree, a lot of us partake in consumer culture and value tangible possessions, and that’s perfectly fine. But, they should never be what you orient your life’s goals around and be your driving force. Materialism is a slippery and desperate path that leads to apathy, hopelessness, anxiety and depression, ushering in negative impacts on well-being, relationships, and overall quality of life. When we align our lives around materialism, we place wealth over substance, earnings over relationships, popularity over virtue, the hustle culture over family, and ego over serving others. When we base our value system on tangible things, we centre our self-worth and self-esteem on rewards and the praise of others. It is called the endowment effect in behavioural economics and is the belief that when things become ours, they become more valuable to us than their value to other people. We start thinking about materialistic objects as an extension of our identity and create an expectation that we’ll achieve some level of satisfaction possessing them.

This materialistic value system is causing us to live in a world where so many people become hardened and lose access to who they truly are. We put off living trying to be someone we are not because of what the damaged world tells us we should be. Most of us have this intrinsic desire to be happy and feel that materialistic things represent the output of our hard work. But our desire for tangible goods and wealth isn’t driven by adversity but by our own inner discontentment. We are becoming more convinced that we can buy our way to happiness and that acquiring material goods will lead to fulfilment and well being. We become obsessed with comparing, accumulating and acquiring instead of creating, helping and adventuring. When you have more, you spend more, and between all that, you forget the difference between want and need. 

Money is essential. It can most certainly help us achieve our goals, make our future, and make our life easier. But at the end of the day, just having wealth doesn’t guarantee your fulfilment and happiness. The chase after the tangibles can make you lose your identity, morals, and perspective. These negative aspects keep stacking until you are completely lost and feel the numbness, depression, helplessness, and ego plaguing so many in our society today. 

I don’t mean that you should completely ignore tangibles in life. But you don’t have to sell your soul for them. It is a sure-fire path to misery and mediocrity when you evaluate yourself with what you have instead of who you are. Whatever you earned, are earning, and will earn doesn’t belong to you. You came to this world empty-handed, and you are to leave empty-handed. Your belongings and your body will be recycled and returned to nature. So, what do you want to be remembered for? The wealth you built up or the impact you made on others and the society.

It is vital to set goals and achievements in life, but how you earn them matters. Is sacrificing your values, self-esteem, self-confidence, faith, and reputation worth achieving your materialistic goals? It essentially devotes your soul, mind, passion, and heart to gaining tangible items versus self-mastery and positively impacting the world.

Today, we are all surrounded by advertisements on television, internet encouraging us to want things. Advertisers would have us believe our lives are deficient and impoverished without their products. We should be grateful for and generous with what we have. Contentment isn’t easy. It takes discipline and effort. Contentment in real life has more to do with attitude than place, things etc. Money can’t buy it and poverty doesn’t give it. Contentment comes from being satisfied and thankful for who you are and where you find yourself in life. Believing that inner peace is more valuable than the entire world’s riches is a great start. Contentment is not about money and not about possessions. It is an attitude originating from the heart and reflected in the relationships we have with everyone and everything we value in life. Welcome it and you will be at peace with yourself and others, and satisfied with your life as it is right now.

Take the time to appreciate friends and family by concentrating on all the good things about them- and remember to accept their faults as part of their total package. Express your gratitude by giving them a smile, a hug or saying thanks publicly and with sincerity.

As W. Clement Stone said,” Your most precious; valued possessions and your greatest powers are invisible and intangible. No one can take them. You and you alone can give them. You will receive abundance for your giving.”

Be more focused on the intangible aspects of life; be satisfied with what you are and what you have. That is called true success.

The writer is Assistant Professor (HOD), Department of Botany, SJC (A) Jakhama.