I once met a man called Chris at a hippie camp (Dance Camp East). (This photo shows him after I had 'done' his hair ready for the ball.) You certainly meet a selection of colourful, thought-provoking people at hippie camps. He told me that at the age of 23 that he decided that a LOT of the world's serious difficulties were and would be caused by over-consumption. He decided (at that young age) that he would reduce his own level of consumption by limiting his income and vowed to himself to only ever earn enough to ensure just his basic needs were met.
He also told me that he never saw life in terms of acquisition of material goods, but acquisition of skills. He said that every time he saw an opportunity to learn a skill, he would jump at it. He clearly had a wide array of skills (could fix, make or build almost anything) and people definitely showed admiration for his abilities. Perhaps the acquisition of skills really has waned in our society such that those with a healthy dollop of them them stand out. Or perhaps we just have more depth of skill rather than breadth. We can certainly get by with less physical and dexterous skills than our ancestors would have needed. But one thing is certain - skills are a positive thing!
(BTW This man is currently very involved in sustainable living projects - writing books etc - and says that even though he suspects humankind is almost definitely heading for disaster, this does not stop him doing his bit to attempt to prevent it!)
Having just experienced the madness that is Christmas: the ultimate in over-consumption and having watched my children go from a state of extreme over-excitement through anticipation to eventually being a little bored with each toy they acquired - always sets me off thinking about acquisition of 'things' and how we keep failing to learn that it really is not the secret to inner contentment (if indeed that is what people have realised they might be looking for?!?!) There is also some strange need for some to acquire 'bigger and better' to have an obvious indication of wealth and a display of 'superiority' over others. This can only be an insecurity - yes?
Acquiring skills is deeply satisfying and great for self esteem and undoubtedly provides a more sustainable satisfaction than acquiring a new gadget/toy/thing. What's more in carrying out something in a skilled way we can often experience what is called 'flow' - a meditative type state of absorption in what we are doing. So as we are building up to the time of fresh starts and future visions, I am going to ponder what skills I might like to acquire or develop further in 2010 and leave the purchasing of a red Porsche to someone else.