In conversation with a friend recently the question came up: why do we consume? Where does this desire to consume come from? I said I’d never thought about it before but I’d be happy to start spouting whatever came into my head. Which I then proceeded to do. But then I thought about it some more later.
Living things are classified as those things which consume, excrete, procreate, move. They distinguish between different elements of their environment and choose between those things that are beneficial to life and those which are harmful. The “choosing” may be merely a physical reaction or an instinct-driven selection rather than a cognitive decision. But living organisms broadly feel urges toward life; and move, choose, selectively engage their bodies / forms as well as environments toward the processes which constitute and support living.
We are impelled by desires to consume because we are living things. We seek out the constituents which comprise our living self; are drawn to those things which sustain our life. And as living things we feel the need to reproduce, to invest our life into new forms which will carry our life into the future in innumerable permutations.
But as humans we consume in so many ways and on so many different levels than our non-human counterparts. We have extended our desires to consume into our social, emotional, psychological, mental, and spiritual arenas. We consume relationships in families and friendships; we desire, seek out and consume knowledge, feel compelled to consume beauty or truth or meaning. Some consume thoughts and ideas or mental puzzles and challenges. Our desire to consume beauty is what leads to our preoccupation with clothes, shoes, cosmetics, home decor, gardening, We also stockpile beauty in our collections of music, movies, and books.
However, the balancing counterpart to consuming is procreation, or creation. We consume the elements that constitute life in order to procreate that life. In our human extension of these natural urges, our creation of beauty, knowledge, meaning, truth is the natural end product of our consuming. It completes the circle; carries forward the cycle.
We both consume relationships and creatively procreate relationships; we consume beauty and create beauty; we consume knowledge, ideas, truth, and meaning and we create them. Consuming is productive precisely in its development into creation; consumption is fulfilled through creation.
Our souls, our humanity thrives, flourishes, evolves not through our consumption but through our creation. Consumption provides the life energy which propels creation. But without the transformation of our life energy into creative outlets, our insatiable thirst to consume only serves to diminish our humanity instead of expanding it.
Without transformation into creativity consumption deteriorates, atrophies, shrivels the vitality of our souls, withers the bright core of our being. Not only our individual spirits but our collective psyche as innumerable societies and cultures and even our humanity is rendered barren when consumption goes to waste without generating creation. ¬¬
Consumption can be a wonderful joyous celebration of our life; but it can only be fully realized through transformation of the energy of our life into creation.