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Ignoring the Things that Bring Us Joy

Those things we consider to be insignificant are what brings us true joy in life; not the endless pursuit of more which modern day consumerism teaches us.

Consumerism and Joy

By Rayhan al-Safawi

Modern capitalism (and indeed consumerism) is not just an economic system, but a philosophy of life; a way of viewing and being in the world. The 18th century Scottish economist Adam Smith taught us that greed was a good thing. What this meant was that the perpetual craving of what we do not have is a good trait to have because it drives a nation’s economy.

Greed, which is at the foundation of the mass modern cultural phenomenon we call consumerism, teaches that our thoughts must always be with what we haven’t done in life; what we’re missing and where we would rather be living in, or what job we would rather have, or what work still needs completing. These thoughts are not all too bad, but when they become our be-all and end-all vision of life, that is when an existential sickness is born and it is exactly the sickness that our global culture, including the Muslim world, finds itself in.

On some level, greed is the anti-thesis of gratefulness. Advanced levels of it often teach us to be unhappy with our jobs, our families and where we live – just to give a few examples. It also teaches us to be unappreciative of the little things we have in life, such as taking walks with our spouses, or having ice cream with our children, or spending the night with friends and family, or enjoying peaceful solitude reading a meaningful book, or praying to God. What the philosophy of consumerism doesn’t teach us is that it is these small things that bring joy to us and not the incessant pursuit of more.

The Prophet Muhammad (s) did not find his joy in his military conquests or rule, but in the more meaningful things in his life, including his prayers, good scents, spending time with family, and enjoying his cup of milk mixed with honey.

Rayhan al-Safawi is a blogger at the World Shia Forum. He lives with his family in the West Coast, United States.

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