Consuming Guilt

Here is a list of my consumer sins:

I love SALE

I buy clothes without trying them on and end up never using them again

I buy shoes that I can’t wear just because they look nice

I love tuna

I love meat, baby animals are especially tasty

I use disposable cups just to avoid washing the dishes

I buy bad gifts

 

Do I feel guilty about these? Yes, sometimes. Especially in sustainability classes. Am I still gonna continue doing these things? Yes.

Guilt is a fascinating feeling. It can make us want to change our behavior but only for a little while. When I think of carbon footprint tests that I’ve made, I’ve always ended up feeling really guilty and ashamed of my actions. And then what.?

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I don’t believe that guilt is a bad thing. On the contrary. We just need to tackle the feeling of guilt in a right way. There needs to be more doors open for taking action right on the spot when the feeling of guilt is created. I like the idea on this website:

 

http://tavarataivaselokuva.fi/tee-ihmiskoe/

 

Sorry guys, it’s in finnish.. But the whole website is promotion for this movie “Tavarataivas” – the heaven of goods. For those who haven’t run into it yet, it’s a documentary about a guy who decides to pack ALL his stuff away for a whole year and he is only allowed to take one item a day for use from his storage, buying stuff is not allowed. The website has a generator to design your own “human experiment” with your own rules. The best thing is that the rules that the generator suggests are actually doable and have some explanations and reasoning to them also. There’s also so many options that I’m sure everyone can find some rules that fit their lifestyle.  

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4 comments
  1. angelinakt said:

    The emotion of guilt is actually very complex. The implication for marketing is that one has to be very careful when trying to use “guilt appeals”. People’s reactions to guilt are often unpredictable, because it is a negative emotion. In addition, when experiencing guilt many might feel as being manipulated into it, which produces even more negativity. We will talk about this in more detail during the lecture on Mon 25.3. If you want, you can check out an article on using guild in advertising: http://www.cerog.org/lalondeCB/CB/1999_lalonde_seminar/cotte.pdf

    • tpanthi said:

      Unquestionably happiness/wellbeing is the key to our life. Knowingly or unknowingly this is the state we all are collectively striving for. The most intriguing thing for me is despite all of us directly or indirectly knowing that ‘happiness’ is what we are striving for and probably by every means of information and resources having more than enough for everyone we cannot claim to have achieve the sense of wellbeing and the state of ‘happiness’. On one hand we live in a world of severe economic inequality caused by our unfair economic systems and on the other hand we have severely disturbed the wellbeing of the earth, our home, and compromised our and every other species’ existence here. What adds to the surprise is the fact that most of these problems come from the so called well educated and well informed ones among us. The elite ones who steer the economy, politics, corporations and other institution have used their knowledge to frame the cast that has shaped our current state of being. The only conclusion that I can come to from this observation is that there has to be a fundamental problem with what we understand as knowledge. Knowledge by its definition and function should take us to a better state of being and ultimately provide ‘happiness’ and wellbeing but currently this does not seems to be the case. This implies that merely receiving information and having some sort of experience cannot be qualified as having knowledge. Information or experience has to give a positive qualitative transformation, a positive quantum jump from one state to another better state of being; a ‘happier state’, a rational state, for it to be knowledge. The better states that man reaches because of the transformation caused by our knowledge; I call it ‘the human state’. This is where man, an animal, becomes human. Man has not been able make that quantum jump to the state of wellbeing from its current chaotic state. Therefore, man is yet to be a human and knowledge is yet to happen. We have merely confused knowledge for information and practicalities we have memorized. These information and practicalities have not transformed man’s animal instincts into intuitions in order to make it (man) a human. Due to all the collected information and learned practicalities man functions hopeless and restless in a limbo state of intelligence hanging in between instinct and intuition. The information and practicalities tell man that exploiting the poor, polluting the environment etc is wrong thing to do but the instinct makes man do the wrong thing. The byproduct of this confused state is guilt. In the confused state of intelligence man functions with what the Hindu’s call six ‘enemies’(similar version of Christian seven deadly sins) of being a human: lust, anger, greed, attachment, jealousy, vengeance. If we look at the roots of the entire problem that exist in the world we will find that in one way or another one of these ‘enemies’ is the main cause. Our politicians, policy makers, businessmen, and we all operate under the guidance of these ‘enemies’ at different levels because of which our life style has become disastrous. Unless we transform ourselves by making a good use of our information and experience to enable ourselves to deal with these ‘six enemies’ we will never be able to achieve ‘happiness’ and wellbeing. Until then knowledge is yet to happen and we are just man not human. Until then the idea of changing the world will always cause the vicious circle of misery, poverty, inequality, depression and guilt. Just as Gandhi said one must first “be the change that they want to see in the world”.

      If information and practicalities are not knowledge then what is the right approach towards it? How can we make a quantum jump from the limbo state of intelligence to intuition? How do we deal with the ‘six enemies’? And most importantly: How to be happy and guilt free?

      It is important to look at the mechanism of happiness to understand how we can be happy. Mostly people are happy because something desirable happens to them. It is important to understand that the desirable act in itself does not contain happiness; it only stimulates the happiness in people as it occurs to them. For example when a hungry person gets some food he becomes happy but the same food does not bring any happiness to someone who is already full. Thus happiness is something inherent to us; it’s “in here”, not out there. The problem is that we are accustomed and taught to expressing happiness only when something desirable happens. If we look carefully at the babies they are happy for no reason. The older we get and more information we gather about things (and consider ourselves knowledgeable) we need stronger reason for being happy. It’s just like a disease getting stronger on you so that you require stronger medication to feel better. Ernest Hemingway describes the same observation by saying, “Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know”. Thus we keep on doing all kinds of things “out there” those are desirable for us in order to be happy. But obviously same thing cannot stimulate happiness again and again in us and as the result we have to succumb to accumulating things and activities in our life. Consumerism and addiction are the perfect example for this. Once we realize this mechanism of happiness then the only logical solution is to dig for the source of happiness within. That is one has to explore their own being for happiness; being- in pure existential way; in its absoluteness and not in relation to anything else.

      How to explore your being?

      “Only the hand that erases can write the true thing.” – Meister Eckhart

      Dropping off the information and practicalities from our awareness or letting the constant movement of thoughts and emotions to settle down so that what remains is only pure awareness, “tabula rasa”- the clean slate, is the right approach to exploring our being. It is noteworthy that dropping off information is not forgetting information. In fact that pure awareness itself is the pure state of being. That pure awareness is the only absolute state one can reach. By reaching that state of awareness I have realized that it is the happiness itself. In regular language it is that feeling that gets triggered when something desirable happens to us i.e. the happiness. Thus by being one finds the source of the happiness. This approach could be related with traditional mystical approach of meditation in Buddhism and Hinduism but since I have created a lot of fuss trying to differentiate between knowledge and information and practicality I have to refuse the relationship. This way it will also make sense to justify my transformation. As I mentioned earlier Knowledge by its definition and function should take us to a better state of being, i.e. transform, and ultimately provide ‘happiness’; and from what I just described, being is that transformative process to take us up to happiness. Thus being is the knowledge!

      When we master the knack of being we know that our source of being and our purpose of being is happiness itself. And with this we also know that it is not just us but also every other member of this existence have the same quality. This knowledge brings a tremendous respect for others. Once respect is cultivated within our being the six enemies that prevent us from being human: lust, anger, greed, attachment, jealousy, vengeance are faded away. When one is full with so much appreciation and respect for life it becomes impossible for them to do wrong things that can harm or hurt others, whether that is another human being, an animal, plant or their surroundings. A person who has found happiness within does not have to succumb to excessive use of other things ‘out there’; they are content ‘in here’. Their acts are proactive unlike most of us who are mostly reactive. For example, the recent emergence of concern over environment, and global climate change is a reactive action against the potential fear that global warming will melt all the polar ice and we all get drowned or it will cause another ice age and we all freeze to death. This fear has made many of the environmentalists and other educated members of modern society to become a vegetarian or to watch their consumer habit or to perform the so called acts of social and environmental responsibility. Counter to being a re-actionist a person of knowledge is proactive, he does not become a vegetarian because he is scared of global warming but becomes a vegetarian because he has know by being that what he is inside is not different than what the animal is inside. He does it because of the aesthetic values of the act being done. Unlike other people who act for getting happiness, a man of knowledge acts out of his happiness within, and full of respect and awareness for the existence outside, hence the byproduct of their act is not harmful to their surroundings. For such a person the agenda of degrowth or decoupling, sustainable consumerism, and every other thing that humanity has all of a sudden prioritized as important does not have to be a systematically enforced set of rules, it happens as the byproduct of their behavior. Thus the knowledge that happens by being makes one the most sustainable.

      Being, Happiness, the special theory of relativity, and Knowledge
      Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, a Harvard University trained neuroanatomist- a scientist who specializes in how the brain works, famously describes in a Ted talk her experience when due to a brain stroke her analytical brain lost attachment to her consciousness – “.. I looked at my arm, and I realized I could no longer define the boundaries of where I began and where I ended. What were the atoms and molecules of my arm versus the atoms and molecules of the wall? … Everything blended together as one,” she says. “I felt that I was as big as the universe. And in that knowing there was immense happiness, bliss and peace that I never knew before” (Ted 2008). It is the analytical brain that perceives information through our senses and gives the false realization that we are just the body. This experience that accidentally happened to Dr. Taylor supports my argument that true being is the real knowledge that takes us to happiness or wellbeing. She has actually experienced what I have defined as the state of intuition, where knowing happens to you as you are, without doing anything. The argument that being leads you to the real knowledge can also be contested by looking into Einstein’s special theory of relativity.

      The basic idea of the special theory of relativity is that since it takes time for information to reach from one point to another point, two points can simultaneously be in different time frame compared to the reference point. As illustrated in the figure 1, since it takes less time (t1) for the light (information) to reach from source S to person A compared to time (t2) required to reach the light from S to person B, person A is in future in comparison to person B with reference to the light source. In this observation the assumption is that the observer A and B are point observations. From my argument of being and the experience of Dr. Taylor we can infer that we cannot take it for granted that an observer always has to be a point consciousness. It might be true if we consider the analytical aspect of our mind but in the context of real existential being and exploring the source of happiness we should think from the point of view of expansion of consciousness.

      In figure 2 we see that the consciousness of B is more expanded than in figure 1, which means that the observer B now perceives the light in time t3 which is shorter than time t2 implying that he is now in future compared to the previous case even though he is physically at the same place. By extending the same logic we see that in figure 3 despite physically being in the same position observer B perceives the light in the same time as the observer A, i.e., t4 =t1 as the result of expansion of consciousness. Compared to the perception of B in figure 1 or figure 2 we can actually say that B in figure3 is seeing the future! If we further expand the same logic and see in figure4, the consciousness of observer B is expanded enough to encompass the source of light within its range. In this situation the observer instantly perceives the light, since t5=0, hence for B knowing of the light happens instantaneously. With same logic if an observer is able to expand its consciousness as big as the universe then they are able to perceive any information in the existence the moment they happen. In such situation of enlightenment there is no time lag for anything because one instantaneously knows what is happening. In fact, at that state everything is known to the observer and there is no time at all! One is always at the present. And when everything is known, unquestionably, it is the culmination of knowledge, happiness and wellbeing. This derivation matches perfectly with Dr. Taylor’s experience of losing the track of time while she was having the blissful experience of herself being as big as the universe. Her experience is also in line with the experience of renowned enlightened masters and mystics of contemporary world such as Osho, George Gurdjieff, J. Krishnamoorti, Jaggi Vasudev (Ted India 2009). This also resonates with what the Muslim Sufi saint Mansoor used to call “Analhak”, and what the ancient sages of the Upanishads called “Aham Brahmasmi” meaning I am him, the existence, the god, the ultimate.
      As shown above happiness is within an individual, and knowledge means to master the knack of being; now it is up to an individual to break the societal norms and preconceived notions about life to bring a radical change in ones perception of the reality. One has to be radical enough to drop off the information and practicalities of the society that have been there for centuries in order to explore the journey of being. The imprints of religions, culture, education and intelligence that have been in our psyche can both act as motivation and barricade in pursuing our being. In most of the cases these societal institutions act as a barricade in pursuing our being because they are mostly objective in nature. They only teach you what is to be done out there to get happiness, prosperity or wellbeing. We are clueless about ourselves! We are taught to identify ourselves in relation to the other. Other than some mystical, spiritual practitioners there is not much know institutional efforts done in this regard. I feel that some enhancement in contemporary educational institution can serve as a regime for creating an environment for incubating such radical individuals who are willing to change themselves and as the result give enlightened sustainable solution to the wicked world problems.

      References:
      1) Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor at TED http://www.ted.com/talks/jill_bolte_taylor_s_powerful_stroke_of_insight.html
      2) Jaggi Vasudev at TED http://www.speakingtree.in/sadhgurujaggi.vasudev/video/sadhguru-ted-india-2009-his-enlightenment-story

  2. tpanthi said:

    The above comment is from my diary so I hope you will excuse the tone of the writing!

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