We have an intuitive understanding of what we want – we feel we’re living the Good Life when who we are and who we want to be align. We desperately seek this alignment in all of our actions. Which is precisely why we bugger it up: desperation drives us towards shoddy substitutes.
People with an overwhelming desire for wealth or fame aren’t motivated by the pure joy of having wealth or fame. No, they have a hole in their psyche that they are trying to fill with enough stuff to not make them feel so inadequate anymore.[i]
To see oneself and others as thing, object, possession, rather than subjective stream of consciousness and unconsciousness, is to be tied to sensation without meaning.[ii]
Fads and hobbies, however, are in many cases, perhaps most, not a source of fundamental happiness, but a means of escape from reality, of forgetting for the moment some pain too difficult to be faced. Fundamental happiness depends more than anything else upon what may be called a friendly interest in persons and things.[iii]
I don't think we are particularly materialistic. I think we live in a society which has simply pegged certain emotional rewards to the acquisition of material goods. It's not the material goods we want; it's the rewards we want [...] The next time you see someone driving a Ferrari, don't think this is somebody who's greedy; think this is someone who is incredibly vulnerable and in need of love. Feel sympathy rather than contempt.[iv]
Our initial pretheoretical or intuitive judgments about what is valuable and what is a waste of time are formed in childhood, as a result of a variety of lessons, experiences, and other cultural influences. Being challenged to justify our judgments, being exposed to different ones, broadening our range of experience, and learning about other cultures and ways of life will lead us to revise, and, if all goes well, improve our judgments.[vii]
Relevance is a product neither of objectivity or subjectivity. […] Relevance is transjective – a real relationship between an organism and its environment. Not projected or detected. It is realised (objective sense: to make real; subjective sense: coming into awareness).[x]
What the myths of objectivism and subjectivism both miss is the way we understand the world through our interactions with it. What objectivism misses is the fact understanding, and therefore truth, is necessarily relative to our cultural conceptual systems and that it cannot be framed in any absolute or neutral conceptual system. Objectivism also misses the fact that human conceptual systems are metaphorical in nature and involve an imaginative understanding of one kind of thing in terms of another. What subjectivism specifically misses is that our understanding, even our most imaginative understanding, is given in terms of a conceptual system that is grounded in our successful functioning in our physical and cultural environments.
Almost no one actually enjoys flaunting expensive stuff. What they enjoy is the respect and admiration that they assume flaunting expensive stuff will bring them. And they're often wrong about it. Humility may bring you more respect than vanity, but it's so hard to accept that.