Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Consumerism

In his book, Hidden History, Boorstin describes how the process of becoming a hero led to the process of becoming a celebrity with the advent of advertising. Instead of becoming respected and revered because of wisdom, virtue, and compassion; people became famous for being famous without any deeper qualities. PR firms took the place of good deeds in creating fame. This same dynamic seduces the average consumer into believing that happiness, acceptance, and appreciation arise from buying and accumulating things rather than from becoming a better person. Based on the false belief in “basic badness” and ignoring our true nature, it sets our sights on goals diametrically opposed to our true happiness. Believing the advertising and taking on the role of the donkey always chasing the unreachable carrot, we chase after material things, dedicate our lives to making money and only burden ourselves with anxiety and worry. When we experience the meaningless emptiness of continually accumulating and consuming; our materialistic attitudes dissolve by themselves and we begin to discover the profound brilliance, the sacredness of life.

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Quotes (72)

“Acquisition means life to miserable mortals.”

Hesiod 846 – 777 BCE
“History’s first economist”
from Works and Days

Themes: Consumerism

“I do not possess in order not to be possessed.”

Antisthenes 445 – 365 BCE
Creator of a religious tradition without religion

“When Lao Tan and Yin Hsi heard of people who considered accumulation as deficiency, they were delighted.”

Chuang Tzu 莊周 369 – 286 BCE
(Zhuangzi)

Themes: Consumerism

81. Journey Without Goal

“Because this is not easy to do without servility to mobs or monarchs, a free life cannot acquire many possessions—yet it possesses all things in unfailing abundance.”

Epicurus ɛpɪˈkjɔːrəs 341 – 270 BCE
Western Buddha
from Fragments, Vatican Collection

“The gentleman makes things his servants. The petty man is servant to things.”

Xun Kuang 荀況 310 – 235 BCE
(Xún Kuàng, Xúnzǐ)
Early Confucian philosopher of "basic badness"

“I flee who chases me and chase who flees me.”

Ovid oʊvɪd 43 BCE – 18 CE
(Publius Ovidius Naso)
Great poet and major influence on the Renaissance, Humanism, and world literature

Themes: Consumerism

“Merchants were the great men of the earth, because all the nations were deceived by their sorcery.”

Jesus 3 BCE – 30 CE via Revelations
from New Testament Διαθήκη

“Forbidden pleasures alone are loved immoderately; when lawful, they do not excite desire.”

Quintilian 35 – 100 CE
from Institutio Oratoria

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.”

Epictetus Ἐπίκτητος 55 – 135 CE
from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

Themes: Consumerism

63. Easy as Hard

“Attachment to seemingly concrete objects is always a cause for suffering. But these objects of desire have no real existence.”

Nagarjuna नागर्जुन c. 150-250 CE

Themes: Consumerism

“What is the nature of sky? How can you desire it, how can you think about it at all?”

Aciṅta ཨ་ཙིངྟ་།། 862 – 912 CE
("The Avaricious Hermit")
Mahasiddha #38

Themes: Consumerism

“Those who look for seashells will find seashells; those who open them will find pearls.”

Al-Ghazali أبو حامد محمد بن محمد الطوسي الغزالي 1058 – 1111 CE
(Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali)
Philosopher of Sufism

Themes: Consumerism

“Ordinary people are sunk in sound, color, wealth, and power—their true mind and pure nature become obscured.”

Lù Jiǔyuān 陸九淵 1139 – 1192 CE via Chan, Shan Dao
(Lu Xiangshan)

“Gold, houses, estates, garments, paintings... offer a mutable and superficial pleasure but books give delight to the very marrow of one's bones. They speak to us, consult with us, join with us in a living and intense intimacy.”

Petrarch 1304 – 1374 CE via Stephen Greenblatt

“Dismiss thoughts that prize so much what is really only food for worms, fire, vultures, and jackals.”

Longchenpa ཀློང་ཆེན་རབ་འབྱམས་པ། 1308 – 1364 CE via Herbert V. Guenther, Shan Dao
(Longchen Rabjampa, Drimé Özer)
from Kindly Bent to Ease Us, Trilogy of Finding Comfort and Ease ངལ་གསོ་སྐོར་གསུམ་

“The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.”

Erasmus 1466 – 1536 CE
(Desiderius Roterodamus)
"Greatest scholar of the northern Renaissance"

“Ease crushes us.”

Montaigne 1533 – 1592 CE

“If a person possess all things, they cannot be content—the greater their possessions, the less will be their contentment, for the heart cannot be satisfied with possessions, but rather only in detachment from all things.”

John of the Cross 1542 – 1591 CE via Shan Dao, et alia

“What costs little if of little worth.”

Balthasar Gracian 1601 – 1658 CE via Joseph Jacobs, #18
from Art of Worldly Wisdom

Themes: Consumerism

“Refinements—under the odious name of luxury—have been severely arraigned by the moralists of every age; and it might perhaps be more conducive to the virtue, as well as happiness of mankind, if all possessed the necessaries, and none the superfluities of life. But in the present imperfect condition of society, luxury—though it may proceed from vice or folly—seems to be the only means that can correct the unequal distribution of property.”

Edward Gibbon 1737 – 1794 CE
from Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire

“Luxury, that baneful poison, has unstrung and enfeebled her sons.”

Abigail Adams 1744 – 1818 CE
One of the most exceptional women in American history

Themes: Consumerism

“Try novelties for salesman's bait, novelty wins everyone.”

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 1749 – 1832 CE via Philip Wayne
from Faust, part I

“Though having all we need, we constantly seek more.”

Jamgon Kongtrul the Great འཇམ་མགོན་ཀོང་སྤྲུལ་བློ་གྲོས་མཐའ་ཡས། 1813 – 1899 CE via Judith Hanson
(Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thayé)
from Torch of Certainty

Themes: Consumerism

44. Fame and Fortune

“Most of the luxuries and many of the so-called comforts of life are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.”

Henry David Thoreau 1817 – 1862 CE
Father of environmentalism and America's first yogi
from Walden or Life in the Woods

Themes: Consumerism

“the 'productive' worker cares as much about the crappy shit he has to make as does the capitalist himself who employs him, and who also couldn't give a damn for the junk.”

Karl Marx 1818 – 1883 CE

Themes: Consumerism

“Private property has made us so stupid and partial that an object is only ours when we have it, when it exists for us as capital … Thus all the physical and intellectual senses have been replaced by … the sense of having.”

Karl Marx 1818 – 1883 CE

68. Joining Heaven & Earth

“The world has proclaimed freedom but what do we see in this? Our culture says, 'try to satisfy all of your desires and even multiply them' but what follows from this? In the rich, isolation and spiritual suicide; in the poor, dissatisfaction, envy, and crime.”

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky Фёдор Миха́йлович Достое́вский 1821 – 1881 CE via Constance Garnett, Shan Dao
from Brothers Karamatzov

“The world says: ‘Don't hesitate to satisfy your needs; indeed, expand your needs and demand more.’ This is the worldly doctrine of today and they believe that this is freedom. The result for the rich is isolation and suicide, for the poor, envy and murder.”

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky Фёдор Миха́йлович Достое́вский 1821 – 1881 CE
from Brothers Karamatzov

“the mass of mankind will acquiesce in any arrangement which gives them better food and clothing at a cheaper rate”

Samuel Butler 1835 – 1902 CE
Iconoclastic philosopher, artist, composer, author, and evolutionary theorist
from Erewhon

Themes: Consumerism

“Everything popular is wrong.”

Oscar Wilde 1854 – 1900 CE

Themes: Consumerism

“the most extraordinary characteristic of current America is the attempt to reduce life to buying and selling…All life is production for profit, and for what is profit but for buying and selling again?”

W. E. B. Du Bois 1868 – 1963 CE

“Only he who desires is amiable and not he who is satiated.”

Thomas Mann 1875 – 1955 CE
Deep, psychologically insightful author
from Confessions of Felix Krull (1954)

“Let us ask the Gods not for possessions, but for things to do; happiness is in making things rather than consuming them.”

Will Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
Philosophy apostle and popularizer of history's lessons
from Fallen Leaves (2014)

“Distracted from distraction by distraction.”

T. S. Eliot 1888 – 1965 CE

72. Helpful Fear

“Already madness lifts its wing to cover half my soul. Now everything is clear... Nothing I counted mine, out of my life, is mine to take...”

Anna Akhmatova Анна Ахматова 1889 – 1966 CE
(Andreyevna Gorenko)
Russia's most loved female poet

“Armaments, universal debt, and planned obsolescence—those are the three pillars of Western prosperity. If war, waste, and moneylenders were abolished, you'd collapse.”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE
from Island

Themes: War Consumerism

“Armaments, universal debt, and planned obsolescence—those are the three pillars of Western prosperity. If war, waste, and moneylenders were abolished, you'd collapse. And while you people are over consuming the rest of the world sinks more and more deeply into chronic disaster.”

Aldous Huxley 1894 – 1963 CE
from Island

58. Goals Without Means

“The victor belongs to the spoils.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald 1896 – 1940 CE
Prototype of "Jazz Age" exuberance
from The Beautiful and Damned (1922):

“What matters most are the simple pleasures so abundant that we can all enjoy them...Happiness doesn't lie in the objects we gather around us. To find it, all we need to do is open our eyes.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry 1900 – 1944 CE

81. Journey Without Goal

“Modern man has transformed himself into a commodity; he experiences his life energy as an investment with which he should make the highest profit, considering his position and the situation on the personality market.”

Eric Fromm 1900 – 1980 CE
from Art of Loving

Themes: Consumerism

24. Unnecessary Baggage

“In our rich consumers' civilization we spin cocoons around ourselves and get possessed by our possessions.”

Max Lerner 1902 – 1992 CE
(Maxwell Alan)

“Americans are bred like stuffed geese – to be consumers, not human beings. The moment they stop consuming and buying, the frog-skin world has no more use for them. They have become frogs themselves… this is the real world, not the Green Frog Skin World. That’s only a bad dream, a streamlined, smog-filled nightmare.”

John Fire Lame Deer 1903 – 1976 CE via Richard Erdoes
from Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions

Themes: Consumerism Dream

44. Fame and Fortune

“I write for one and only one purpose, to overcome the invincible ignorance of the traduced heart. […] I wish to speak to and for those who have had enough of the Social Lie, the Economics of Mass Murder, the Sexual Hoax, and the Domestication of Conspicuous Consumption.”

Kenneth Rexroth 1905 – 1982 CE
"Father of the Beats”

“Advertisers discovered that real news is bad news, that good news gets very little attention.”

Marshall McLuhan 1911 – 1980 CE via Shan Dao
from War and Peace in the Global Village

Themes: Consumerism

“Meaningless work is an abomination... reject meaningless, boring, stultifying, or nerve-racking work [where you are] made the servant of a machine or a system.”

E. F. Schumacher 1911 – 1977 CE
The “People's Economist”
from Good Work

“The myth of unlimited production brings war in its train as inevitably as clouds announce a storm.”

Albert Camus 1913 – 1960 CE

“[We live in a world] whose rhetoric is advertising, whose standard of living has become its morality”

Daniel J. Boorstin 1914 – 2004 CE
American intellectual Paul Revere
from Hidden History, 1987

Themes: Consumerism

“Take most people, they're crazy about cars. They worry if they get a little scratch on them, and... if they get a brand-new car already they start thinking about trading it in for one that's even newer... I'd rather have a goddam horse. A horse is at least human, for God's sake.”

J. D. Salinger 1919 – 2010 CE
from Catcher in the Rye

“Billboards, billboards, drink this, eat that, use all manner of things, everyone, the best, the cheapest, the purest and most satisfying of all their available counterparts. Red lights flicker on every horizon”

Neal Cassady 1926 – 1968 CE

“In a consumer society there are inevitably two kinds of slaves: the prisoners of addiction and the prisoners of envy.”

Ivan Illich 1926 – 2002 CE
"an archaeologist of ideas"
from Tools for Conviviality (1973)

“Every American wants MORE MORE of the world… But the mistake made in America is persons accumulate more more dead matter… at the expense of what really counts… You own twice as much rug if you're twice as aware of the rug.”

Allen Ginsberg 1926 – 1997 CE

46. Enough

“When we have peace, then we have a chance to save the planet. But if we are not united in peace, if we do not practice mindful consumption, we cannot save our planet.”

Thích Nhất Hạnh tʰǐk ɲɜ̌t hɐ̂ʔɲ 1926 CE –

Themes: Consumerism Peace

“The greatest change we need to make is from consumption to production, even if on a small scale, in our own gardens. If only 10% of us do this, there is enough for everyone.”

Bill Mollison 1928 – 2016 CE
Permaculture's Founder-Father

“Instead of citizens, it produces consumers. Instead of communities, it produces shopping malls. The net result is an atomized society of disengaged individuals who feel demoralized and socially powerless.”

Noam Chomsky 1928 CE –
from Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media

18. The Sick Society

“Worthless money, worthless article purchased; it has a sort of logic to it.”

Philip K. Dick 1928 – 1982 CE
Legendary consciousness provocateur
from Ubik

“We must use our lives to make the world a better place to live, not just to acquire things. That is what we are put on the earth for.”

Dolores Huerta 1930 CE –

“In the absence of the sacred, nothing is sacred - everything is for sale.”

Oren Lyons 1930 CE –

53. Shameless Thieves

“To 'make America great again' would mean individuals seeing through all the materialistic, consumerism lies and re-finding real meaningfulness and inspiration in their lives; it doesn’t have anything to do with all of our 'Homer Simpsons' regaining the prestige and respect they’ve lost through their laziness, arrogance, and egomania.”

Shan Dao 山道 1933 CE –

“In this state of total consumerism - which is to say a state of helpless dependence on things and services and ideas and motives that we have forgotten how to provide ourselves - all meaningful contact between ourselves and the earth is broken.”

Wendell Berry 1934 CE –

60. Less is More

“We Americans are not usually thought to be a submissive people, but of course we are. Why else would we allow our country to be destroyed? Why else would we be rewarding its destroyers? Why else would we all — by proxies we have given to greedy corporations and corrupt politicians — be participating in its destruction?”

Wendell Berry 1934 CE –

Themes: Consumerism Greed

58. Goals Without Means

“all addictions stem from this moment when we meet our edge and we just can't stand it... the rampant materialism that we see in the world stems from this moment.”

Pema Chödrön 1936 CE –
(Deirdre Blomfield-Brown)
First American Vajrayana nun
from When Things Fall Apart

“The materialistic outlook dominates everywhere and the mind is intoxicated with worldly concerns.”

Chögyam Trungpa 1939 – 1987 CE via Nalanda Translation Committee
from Sadhana of Mahamudra

“And the people bowed and prayed to the neon God they made and the sign flashed its warning, in the words that it was forming”

Paul Simon 1941 CE –
Prolific planter of musical, cultural wisdom seeds
from Sounds of Silence, 1964

“Our economic system promotes and requires greed in at least two ways: desire for profit is necessary to fuel the engine of economic growth and consumers must be insatiable in order to maintain markets for what can be produced.”

David Loy 1947 CE –
from A Buddhist History of the West

“Illusion, once you’ve got an illusion going, it can function on the market like any other product. Advanced capitalism churning out goods… give it a pretty name, a pretty package, and you can sell it.”

Haruki Murakami 1949 CE –
from Dance, Dance, Dance

“Pleasure is designed by natural selection to evaporate so that the ensuing dissatisfaction will get us to pursue more pleasure.”

Robert Wright 1957 CE –
from Why Buddhism is True

“There are new gods growing in America, clinging to growing knots of belief: gods of credit card and freeway, of Internet and telephone, of radio and hospital and television, gods of plastic and of beeper and of neon. Proud gods, fat and foolish creatures, puffed up with their own newness and importance.”

Neil Gaiman 1960 CE –
Myth-transmitting creative maelstrom
from American Gods

“If it were not for certain people's greed for wealth, the highways would be filled with cars powered by the sun, and no one would be starving. Such advances are technologically and physically possible, but apparently not emotionally possible.”

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche རྫོང་གསར་ འཇམ་དབྱངས་ མཁྱེན་བརྩེ་ རིན་པོ་ཆེ། 1961 CE –
(Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche)
"Activity" incarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo
from What Makes You Not a Buddhist

53. Shameless Thieves

“Proud families spend fortunes on a one-day wedding ceremony for a marriage that may or may not last, while on the same day, in the same village, people are dying of starvation.”

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche རྫོང་གསར་ འཇམ་དབྱངས་ མཁྱེན་བརྩེ་ རིན་པོ་ཆེ། 1961 CE –
(Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche)
"Activity" incarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo
from What Makes You Not a Buddhist

30. No War

“Aldous Huxley predicted, ‘What we love will ruin us’ and described a human race destroyed by ignorance, lust for constant entertainment, technology, and too many goods.”

Nina Lvovna Khrushcheva Нина Львовна Хрущёва 1964 CE –

“We believe that buying more stuff will make us happy because we saw the capitalist paradise with our own eyes on television.”

Yuval Harari יובל נח הררי‎ 1976 CE –
Israeli historian, professor, and philosopher

from 21 Lessons for the 21st Century

Themes: Consumerism

“Consumerism tells us that in order to be happy we must consume as many products and services as possible. If we feel that something is missing or not quite right, then we probably need to buy a product... Every television commercial is another little legend about how consuming some product or service will make life better.”

Yuval Harari יובל נח הררי‎ 1976 CE –
Israeli historian, professor, and philosopher

from Sapiens

Themes: Consumerism