|Affluence can be easy when wants are limited.|
There are two possible courses to affluence. Wants may be easily satisfied either by producing much, or desiring little. For most of human history we have achieved affluence not by producing much, but by following a different more sustainable and effective method.
By adopting the Zen strategy one can enjoy an unparalleled material plenty - even with a low standard of living. Hunter-gatherer societies, past and present, have provided relative affluence while expending the least amount of energy per capita of any human society. How do they do it? By limiting their wants.
This is a far cry from our present system that sees human wants as infinite, and therefore difficult to provide for. In such a system we have to work harder and longer to produce more, all the while consuming ever more energy to do so.
In the Zen approach there is enough for everyone, and cooperation is possible. Our current system is based on infinite wants, and therefore introduces the idea of scarcity - there will never be enough to fulfill everyone's desire. Therefore you must compete for the available resources to satisfy wants, resulting in huge disparities.
I favour the hunter-gatherer/Zen approach. I would rather limit my wants and have a life than slave away endlessly to provide for my unlimited material desires. When wants are few, attainment is easy. When wants are many, attainment is difficult with frustration and unhappiness being the probable results.
The Zen way is a path that leads to liking what you get, not getting what you like. It is about acceptance of a simple life with few possessions rather than wanting what you think you deserve, or what you think everyone else has.
Philosopher Laurens van der Post illustrated these points when describing the Bushmen of the Kalahari:
"This matter of presents gave us many an anxious moment. We were humiliated by the realisation of how little there was we could give to the Bushmen. Almost everything seemed likely to make life more difficult for them by adding to the litter and weight of their daily round.
They themselves had practically no possessions: a loin strap, a skin blanket and a leather satchel. There was nothing that they could not assemble in one minute, wrap up in their blankets and carry on their shoulders for a journey of a thousand miles. They had no sense of possession."
"Imagine a world", John Lennon implored us, "with no possessions." He wondered if we could even think of it, let alone make it happen. He probably knew that we all used to live in such a way, and if this history hadn't been destroyed, we would remember exactly where we came from, and to where we need to return.
I'm back on the Zen road to affluence. Check your wants at the door, and climb aboard. There is room for everyone.