Objects, experiences and cultures

We have a society intent on replacing experiences with objects. We are under constant pressure to buy more stuff, to sit in ever bigger houses on ever bigger piles of things we mostly do not use. The average car is used for about thirty minutes a day, I gather, but we should all aspire to own one so that for the other 23 hours and thirty minutes it can sit there, taking up space and expressing our identity. Adverts tell us that objects are shortcuts to the things we want – the right object brings friendship, respect, love, sex, a happy home and a well behaved family. With the right object, we can do anything. Have you bought in to that?

So we cut back on experiences. We don’t go out as much. We rely on computers for both entertainment and social contact. Sedentary lifestyles make us bodily ill, but that’s ok because we can buy things to help us with that. Slimming products. Flattering clothes. A bigger sofa.  I take online surveys, and I notice that I am frequently asked which products I’ve been discussing with friends and family in recent days. This is also an aspect of objects replacing experiences. We are now expected to talk about brands, because what else is there in your life?

When a society is experiential, you can have a rich culture that reflects on those experiences. A culture coming from experience helps us make sense of our experiences, gives them context, and offers us ways of sharing them. Experience is richer for being explored culturally. Books, music, art, film, dance, even television reflecting on life lived and the possibilities surrounding us, helps us get more out of life and is a source of experience in its own right.

What happens when you have a society that is all about objects, not experiences? How do you make culture out of a discussion around the latest app, the make of your car, the exact shape of your mobile phone contract? You can’t make anything rich and rewarding out of such thin and empty material. Culture based on a life of objects is going to be no culture at all. Plot free movies full of CGI effects, explosions, pathetic dialogue and 2d characters. Endless ‘reality’ TV shows full of freak show takes on life because so many people don’t have much of a real life anymore and thus find this interesting. Endless talent shows that give you the illusion of being important by letting you vote for the winner. News outlets that feel no obligation to report truthfully, and ignore half of what’s going on. Books commissioned by the marketing department.

Look around.

This is what we get when objects replace experience.

It is absolutely essential that we stop being this ever-hungry, always consuming zombie apocalypse, and start living our own lives again.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

6 responses to “Objects, experiences and cultures

  • biahelvetti

    Absolutely – reminds of Sarah in Labyrinth with that junk woman…

  • Aurora J Stone

    This is so true . . .

    Objects have never replaced experiences for me. Experience is crucial for how I live my Druidry and my Druidry lives me. And, whilst I have material objects about me to help me focus and reconnect when I am not able to do so more directly, those objects, though mostly natural ones, are not a replacement for the being and doing there.

    You are made to feel less part of things when you can’t afford all the stuff. Stuffism is a real issue in our culture. My spirituality is grounded in the material of this world as well as in immaterial of the otherworld.. I say that because I am matter myself and the material objects I surround myself I do because they have intrinsic meaning. I don’t have things to have them.

    The trap you speak about is all too easy to fall into, and you really don’t realise it sometimes that you have done. It is hard when most people don’t want to talk about really important things, partly because they have not ever thought about them or that dealing with them is uncomfortable, they don’t know enough, have enough education, etc, to hold an opinion.

    It is a challenge in our consumerist society, but one we ought not to ignore.

  • greenmackenzie

    Couldn’t put it better myself 🙂

  • locksley2010

    One of the many reasons I don’t watch television. If I do watch something I get box sets instead. I never thought that I’d be one to say this: Big Brother exists. Only instead of being a method of totalitarian control… its all about obtaining information about everyone so the right product and brand can be sold.

  • Christopher Blackwell

    The other thing about not buying so any things is you can take better care in choosing something that you rely like and that will last. You also won’t be buying stuff just because it is expected. I don’t have front room furniture, dining room table or most of the under stuff that people fill their house with. My parter built oat of what we do have and none of it is going to ever wear out. I gave a friend a nearly new TV set because I will not likely ever watch it. If I a not going to use it, I either will not buy it, or if I already have it, I will give it to someone who will use it. I just don’t have a attachment to things except for those I actually use.

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