The Stone Age by Viktor M. Vasnetsov

Creation and Consumption: An Armchair Discussion

The Stone Age by Viktor M. Vasnetsov
The Stone Age by Viktor M. Vasnetsov

I think a lot about the concepts of creation and consumption. The role they play in our lives is paramount. We are creators and we are consumers, but how often do we think deeper than that? The concepts are often thrown around with consumption being bad and creation being good. As with most things, I don’t believe it to be that simple. These ideas are what ultimately motivated me to begin this website, so let’s dive in.

A Wild Over Generalization of Human History

Creation was once a common and necessary way of life. Our ancestors had to create tools for hunting and farming. They had to build shelters and protection. Much of their lives involved labor to some degree, usually with an end product that would be to their benefit. If they weren’t creators, they would die. Consumption also played a role in everyday life and it too was out of necessity. They ate food to fuel themselves and what little entertainment they had was most likely to relieve them from the stresses of life. They consumed to survive. The nature of creation and consumption was symbiotic.

As time went on, we created tools to make our lives easier. Work became more efficient and thus we were left with more free time. And with this extra time, we began to consume more. This is not an inherently bad thing. I’m not one that believes that our lives must be full of hard labor to be fulfilling. We should have free time to do what we want instead of spending our lives simply surviving. But the fact of the matter is that we do have more free time than ever and a great deal of that time is spent consuming.

Consumption (Yummy yummy in my tummy)

Let’s talk more about consumption. As mentioned above, consumption gets a bad rap. When we think of consumption or consumers, a certain image comes to mind. These darn kids today with their phones! Spending the whole day with their faces stuck in their screens. Sitting on the couch eating junk food and playing video games. Or maybe you envision those people who live in constant credit card debt, buying every item they can get their hands on. There are a lot of negative connotations with consuming, but they are all related to over consumption.

It’s not a mind-blowing statement to argue that over consumption is bad. We should not be using more than we need (I’ll come back to this). We should not be abusing the planet. In the United States, many live a life of over consumption and do not realize it. There are 7 billion people on this planet. Earth could not support 7 billion Americans. But this is not a lecture about consuming beyond your needs.

I realize that “needs” is a slippery slope. Again, I am not arguing that we should only be consuming enough to fulfill our basic necessities of survival. “Hey man, you don’t need that cookie to live! DROP THE COOKIE NOW!” Instead, I would argue that certain levels of enjoyment and entertainment in life are also considered needs (see the recent: The Psychological Importance of Wasting Time). Our life should be fulfilling, not just through hard work, but also through relaxation. The simple joys of life should not be seen as things to avoid. They should be things to savor.

Consumption is necessary. We must consume to survive and we must consume to thrive.

Creation (Doing that thing you do)

Now let’s get back to creation. Many of us live in a world where creation is hindered. In America, our days are structured such that we go to work 40 hours a week. This is our designated creation time. And for some, that works fine. For others, it feels like a psychological prison. Some people are creating, but perhaps not things they necessarily want to create. Others feel as if they are creating nothing at all. It isn’t that work should be fantastically amazing every day of your life, but it should be fulfilling. And for a variety of reasons, that simply isn’t true. Instead, people are left physically and mentally drained.

When they come home, they feel the need to consume. They need to eat food because they are hungry but also because they are stressed. They need to watch TV or play on their phones because they need a mental break. Or perhaps they get no break at all, because they are raising children whose needs take precedent over their parent’s. They do whatever they can to fulfill their child’s needs. And since there is no scarcity of things to consume, over consumption runs rampant. So our designated creation time (work) often does not fulfill us and our non-work time is spent recovering (consuming).

[As a brief aside, I want to mention that creation is not something I believe to be intrinsically good. I say that only because a lot of crap is created. I also realize that the term “crap” is fairly subjective. It’s really a whole mess of a conversation that isn’t necessary to get in to. The point is that just because something is created does not make that a good thing or a fulfilling activity. But for the sake of this article, I am assuming that “creation” is to create something that has some positive value, either to the creator the others, and gives the creator some sense of fulfillment.]

And so we do not feel fulfilled at our jobs and we come home and consume to make up for it. And we continue to do this for 40-50 years and then we retire (hopefully). The end. Once again, another incredible generalization of life that certainly isn’t true for everyone. But for many, we have lost the symbiotic relationship between creation and consumption. We no longer create to survive, we create (or not) out of obligation (work). And we consume not the results of our labor, but as an avoidance of stress from labor, which ultimately leads to over consumption.

In which I solve everything

You might be wondering, “Okay then, Mr. Know-It-All, what is the answer?” Well, first off, that is a rude tone to take with someone you don’t even know. How dare you. Secondly, I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I do have some things that I believe:

  1. We should create things to fulfill ourselves, not others. Many of us spend a good chunk of our lives doing what others tell us instead of cultivating our own creative purpose. Do what you can to become a creator. If what you create helps others, that is fantastic, as long as it also fulfills you.
  2. We should consume things in a responsible manner. The rate at which humanity is consuming right now is not sustainable. People should lead a life that is respectful to the planet and those around them.
  3. Creation and consumption should be a symbiotic relationship. Too often we consume to avoid the stresses of life. Instead, we should be consuming to further our creative goals. Similarly, our creations should lead to things that we can consume (literally or figuratively) and not things that are harmful.
  4. Everyone should see themselves as positive creators. There is little point to life if all we do is consume, even if what we are consuming is considered positive or noble. We are a community and we should all be contributing. Give back to the world around you.
  5. People cannot possibly follow these guidelines all the time. We are not perfect nor should we strive to be. We err and make mistakes. But when we fall, we should get back up.

I have to imagine I will have a lot more to say about creation and consumption in the future. But for now, I will leave you with this: Tome of Nerd is my attempt at being a creator. My hope is that I can bring some entertainment and usefulness for you to consume. And in turn, I hope it motivates you to create as well.

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