The Problem of Luxury

In nature, we are not burdened with the problems that come with human freedom. If you believe that humans are atop the proverbial food chain, you can easily come to understand the vast differences between our species and others in regards to luxury items.

When man was young, there was no semblance of art or surplus. A hunter-gatherer way of life prevailed, and civilizations did not exist. In this manner, we did not have any truly “human” concerns, since the most basic animal instincts were in full gear at all times in our psyche. During our species’ development, humans were uniquely able to gather an incredible surplus of “necessities” – particularly food – which allowed for a truly human problem: free time.

It seems unlikely that most animals would sit around and ponder the meaning of life, although this is hardly verifiable (we can surmise what a dog thinks as it pants in the backyard, but it is somewhat difficult to grasp the creature’s inner thoughts). Some pets, given enough necessities and stripped of the ability to reproduce (thus eliminating its inner abilities to eat and procreate) may mimic people in that they lack a certain internal propeller that drives human instincts to survive.

But, we as people certainly have the ability to garner a large surplus of “survival goods” such as shelter, food, and potential mates. With all the remaining “free time” allotted to humans, startling changes in our society developed. It is possible that the genetic and physiological evolutionary adjustments that allowed us to develop agriculture also drastically altered our mental consciousness and even brought about the origins of metaphysical thought.

What problem then comes with all this thinking capacity and free time? As animals, we do not need to search for purpose beyond survival. When nothing is given freely to people, they do not often have time to engage in some of the more surreal and existential activities that well-off citizens partake in and enjoy. But these activities do not necessarily allow for a blanket improvement in life conditions. While the animal world is intense and ever-changing, fraught with fight-flight conditions and sensory overdrives, the luxury world is uncertain and confusing. Because there is no longer concern for explicit survival, one would consider rampant procreation an obvious consequence of overwhelming luxury. This is largely observable in materialistic societies where people exist that have an excess of luxuries are generally considered desirable mates.

Ironically, as a society progresses, mating seems to wane. This is incredibly curious, since several social structures encourage the elimination of mass reproduction, thus removing one of the possible options for free time. It seems odd that society would seek to remove one of its original purposes of survival from its structure. This could be argued from a power struggle standpoint, in which only an elite few are allowed to procreate excessively while keeping the mass population in belief that extensive reproduction is bad.

Then what? With excessive luxury, no social encouragement for birthing hundreds of children, and a lifetime of free time, what do people have to do? Thus, people now deal with the problem of luxury, and in countless ways do people do so.

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