More, Better and Different

By Jim Selman | Bio

The engine that drives the world’s economy is a principle that is embedded in our worldview—“more, better and different”. It may seem obvious, but when we think about consumerism, materialism or alcoholism—or any ‘ism’ really—they are all based on the idea that if we like something, then ‘more’ is good (and conversely, if we don’t like it, then ‘less’ is good). Continuous improvement demands that things get better and better—and ‘more’ better is better than ‘less’ better. At the end of the day, we work hard to innovate and create ‘different’ expressions of what we already have. These three perspectives pretty much define our options at every moment. To do ‘nothing’ is rarely considered as an alternative. Experientially, we cannot tolerate boredom. We’re hooked on change, but the only change we can relate to is ‘more’, ‘better’ and ‘different’. Remember the axiom, “The more things change, the more they stay the same…”?

So why is this a problem? It’s a problem because this principle is the product of a closed system in which we have causes and effects and in which we’ve lost the capacity to tell the difference. We believe that our actions (cause) are about producing results (effects), so then we change our actions based on what we think of the effects we’re observing. This means that we are always acting based on our assessments of what we already produced. But this isn’t action. It is a vicious cycle of REACTION—for everything we’re doing is a reaction to a prior effect—and we’ve become trapped.

Most of us know that we can get too much of what we don’t really want. We’ve all experienced getting a consumer ‘rush’ when we buy a new car or whatever only to have a ‘letdown’ later. Compulsive shopping is even a clinical diagnosis for some. And now we’re in the middle of a breakdown in our economy and financial centers. We are also facing a breakdown in our way of life and in our naïve belief that we can grow and prosper forever without taking responsibility for our environment and the political and social realities that make it all possible.

We’ve become a spectator society where everyone’s point of view has currency either as a sound bite on the evening news or as a justification to blame others or to feel entitled to the benefits and privileges of living in this world without giving anything back. The upheaval we’re witnessing is a symptom of our self-referential and self-indulgent worldview. The fact is we’ve become slaves to the mantra of ‘more’, ‘better’ and ‘different’. And we will continue to suffer and struggle against ourselves until we stop and recover ourselves and our capacity to choose. It’s only then that we can create and choose options that express our ‘higher’ values, our commitments to our communities, and our desire to leave a healthier world to our children and their great grandchildren.

© 2008 Jim Selman. All rights reserved.