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“Why Is Consumerism A Bad Thing?” (Quora)

Dr. Michael LaitmanMichael Laitman, On Quora: Why is consumerism a bad thing?

Consumerism never fulfills us. On the contrary, we become emptier the more we run after materialistic pleasures, where each fulfillment we receive after each purchase soon after turns into emptiness.

Our nature, the desire to enjoy—where we constantly seek to feel pleasure, using anything and anyone around us just to input pleasure into ourselves—eventually leads us to a desperate state.

Desperation from never finding true fulfillment will awaken our understanding that we’re trapped: our pursuit of happiness leads to unhappiness, a lack of fulfillment and dissatisfaction, as Kabbalist Yehuda Ashlag (Baal HaSulam) writes, that we die with half our desire in our hand.

“All their possessions are for themselves alone, and ‘he who has a single portion wants a double portion,’ one finally dies with only ‘half one’s desire in one’s hand.’”—Yehuda Ashlag, The Study of the Ten Sefirot, Volume 1, Part 1, Histaklut Pnimit (Inner Reflection)

What we once enjoyed no longer fulfills us, and we constantly seek newer and different kinds of pleasures to try and fulfill ourselves.

We make it easier for ourselves to buy material goods. We make it cheaper to travel. But we find ourselves in a catch-22, because when our purchases and our travels were harder to achieve, they held more value.

Now, with a few taps of our thumbs, we can have goods delivered directly to our homes the same day, and access entertainment to keep us busy for hours. There is nothing left to desire.

What’s next? Our desire grows, we feel emptier, we start feeling out of control, that our desires are controlling us, and become increasingly frustrated.

Then comes a major crisis.

The accelerating consumerist treadmill is quickly reaching a state where we will be unable to keep up with its speed, and will fall flat on our faces. As a result, we will need to seek a different way to fulfill ourselves. The entire basis for our every enjoyment, that we enjoy egoistically, for our personal benefit, will need to undergo a fundamental transformation: that we enjoy altruistically, for the benefit of others.

How is such a transformation possible?

It is possible because our desire to enjoy simply wants to enjoy, and it doesn’t care about what it enjoys from.

Consumerism is built on the premise that by advertising various ways to enjoy, we will pull out our credit cards and pay for pleasure. However, if society advertised that we could enjoy by giving pleasure to others, then we would simply change the way we fulfill ourselves: by giving instead of by receiving.

Today, there are many people and groups focused on fulfilling themselves by giving. Baal HaSulam writes about 10% of the human population being naturally altruistic, i.e., people who feel an innate sense of pleasure by giving to others. Such people and organizations already provide an example of how we can change our means for enjoying ourselves.

Therefore, by shifting the way we enjoy—by giving instead of by receiving—the desire and the fulfillment will remain, but the means will be different.

In the wisdom of Kabbalah, this state is called “bestowal in order to receive.” It is a step higher than “receiving in order to receive,” which is considered as the lowest form of human consciousness.

The same human ego operates, albeit differently. It will become possible to undergo this transition when we will understand it as the solution to the egoistic dead end we reached in our consumerist attempt to enjoy ourselves.

Together with this awareness, the “recognition of evil” of our inability to fulfill ourselves by means of consumerism, we would need to establish our social influences—advertising, the media, the rewards and payments we receive for our work—to honor and respect giving and disregard receiving.

Baal HaSulam describes this phenomenon in The Writings of the Last Generation, as “free competition for every individual, but in bestowal upon others” and that “disclosing any form of desire to receive for oneself is dishonorable and such a great flaw that such a person is regarded as being among the lowest, most inferior people in society.”

In other words, Baal HaSulam explains that when human society reaches an altruistic state, medals and prizes would be awarded to people who exemplify exceptional acts of giving in order to encourage altruism throughout society at large, and disregard any displays of self-aimed enjoyment.

Human development is marked by the constantly growing desire to enjoy, and it is monstrously overgrowing. We’re recognizing our inability to enjoy egoistically, and the idea to enjoy altruistically starts surfacing.

We are headed toward a state where we will receive no fulfillment from receiving, and will then discover that we can fulfill ourselves by giving.

People would enjoy by, for instance, wandering around the public, seeking how they could contribute positively to people and to society at large. It would happen simply because we would find no satisfaction anywhere else. We would seek what and how to give in order to fulfill ourselves.

Such a different mode of fulfilling ourselves—altruistically instead of egoistically—would bring society to a state where we would start understanding how there is much greater benefit, happiness, confidence and satisfaction when we seek to enjoy by giving, and not by receiving.

We would then come a step closer to the laws of nature, which function altruistically—a force of giving and love dwelling between all connections in reality—and we would be closer to realizing nature’s connections in our social connections.

Awakening Israel

laitman_565.01Remark: The whole creation is divided into two parts. One part is called Israel, the second the nations of the world. If Israel does not fulfill its function, the nations of the world come to them with claims, and this is manifested at the human level, at the level of society.

My Comment: This is called anti-Semitism.

Remark: However, neither Israel nor the nations of the world understand where it comes from, although it is all recorded in Kabbalah and can be studied.

My Comment: Of course. It is also recorded in the Torah. Hatred arises naturally from the nations of the world toward the people of Israel. There is no other phenomenon like this.

Question: However, the functions of Israel and the nations of the world are not chosen by the people themselves? Does nature calibrate them in such a way?

Answer: No, it is determined according to the soul. Every person in the world can feel this.

All of a sudden, some Eskimo begins to feel the need to discover a quality of nature, cause and effect, why and for what reason he exists. That is, he aspires to the Creator, to the source of this knowledge, these revelations. Therefore, he begins to delve into everything and, in accordance with his aspiration, is called Isra-El, direct to the Creator.

Question: It turns out that the what is called God’s chosen people is just a determination of nature?

Answer: I would say that there are two parts in this “God’s chosen.” On one hand, there is a part that is given to a person from above, meaning the upper force picks him and gives him desire toward it. On the other hand, the person who feels aspiration toward the upper force makes efforts himself. Meaning, that there must be arousal from above and arousal from below.
From KabTV’s “Fundamentals of Kabbalah,” 1/28/19

Spiritual Geography, Part 1

laitman_746.03In the System of Upper Forces

Remark: In the sources, it is written that every part of the Earth is influenced by spiritual forces according to the law of root and branch.

My Comment: The fact is that everything comes from spiritual roots. There is one single root, the spiritual force that later gradually decomposes into the system of upper forces connected with each other. This system consists of ten forces later expanding to thirty and so on.

But in principle, in the universe there is the force of bestowal—influence, emanation, the upper force, the Creator, the light—and the force of reception—the force of creation, the egoistic force.

The wisdom of Kabbalah tells us about the system of the universe that practically consists of these two forces that are in a certain system of interactions with each other. Their interactions originate from a very high level when they exist in the form of forces and then there is a gradual coarsening, the manifestation of matter in the lower, receiving force.

In this state, the worlds are built from above downward: the world of Adam Kadmon, Atzilut, Beria, Yetzira, and Assiya. Then in each of these worlds further division occurs, which is based on the interactions between two forces.

This is explained from the point of view of the more internal, particular degrees of interaction called Partzufim, meaning degrees, and Sefirot, sub-degrees, and their further division.

Sefira” is from the word “Sapir,” which means luminous. To the extent creation, that is, the will to receive, egoism, can, above itself, become like the quality of bestowal, it receives the upper light, becomes equivalent to it and shines.

All this leads to the fact that in the end, there is a system of interaction of two initial forces, which at different levels of interaction intertwine with each other and form all kinds of combinations. These combinations enter into all kinds of connections, assemblies, etc.

This is how Partzufim, Sefirot, and worlds appear. All this is in the system of upper forces. Then there is, as if, their materialization in our perception. That is, from the forces all this comes into the system of interaction in our corporeal qualities.

The difference between the spiritual and corporeal qualities is in the fact that spiritual qualities are built on the principle of bestowal, mutual interaction, and mutual support when each one tries to do something outside of oneself.

Then, they fall to such a level where they begin interacting with each other egoistically, only to manifest some kind of egoistic qualities, skills, and fulfillment in themselves. This is the division between our lowest egoistic world and the five upper worlds.
From KabTV’s “Fundamentals of Kabbalah,” 1/28/19

Why Anti-Semitism Is Still Alive – Talk with Shaul Magid

Shaul Magid, the Distinguished Fellow in Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College, meets Kabbalist Dr. Michael Laitman to discuss anti-Semitism and why the connection between Jews is the only true solution to it.

Anti-Semitism is on the rise. There are summits and discussions on how to stop it. Various solutions are suggested. However, anti-Semitism continues escalating despite the many efforts to counter it. Thus, the question arises: What is missing in all the efforts to combat anti-Semitism?

The wisdom of Kabbalah states that there is a law of nature, according to which Jews have to consciously connect, and through their connection, let the positive upper force of love and bestowal enter the world. Since the Jewish people originated in ancient Babylon as a group gathered by Abraham around the principle of “Love covers all transgressions”—a method of overcoming the egoistic human nature by building positive connections between people—today is the time for them to reappear as one united entity and expand this unity for all humanity.

Human nature is included in the laws of nature. Therefore, Jews have to act according to nature’s plan. If they don’t, they call on themselves hatred and violence from the nations of the world, dressing up as anti-Semitism of different forms, and the external threat connects them at some point.

Is there a peaceful way for Jews to connect?

Yes. This is a conscious connection according to Abraham’s method. If Jews from all over the globe come together and start implementing “love your neighbor as yourself,” and sharing the method of connection with the nations of the world, they will invert the way in which the law of nature works and let the good enter the world.

Male And Female, Part 9

Laitman_630.2Every Day a Fresh Start

Question: One of the principles of the Kabbalistic group is concessions and self-annulment. Is it possible to agree in the family to begin the next day as if nothing happened yesterday by granting amnesty to each other and trying to avoid situations that usually lead to quarrels?

Answer: We need to start every day afresh despite the fact that there may have been some quarrels yesterday. In both the group and the family, we must constantly start afresh as if nothing happened.

Question: How do we do that?

Answer: It is both very simple and very difficult.

Question: Let’s say, today we agree, “Let’s do it in such a way.” What if tomorrow I cannot begin in such a way, what will obligate me?

Answer: If you have signed such an agreement, you will be proud to observe it. Your egoism does not suffer, and it will be easier for you to step over it.

In fact, you do not even step over it; rather, you just show how much of a man you are, “Even though I do not want to, I must do that because I promised.” And you will have something to be proud of.

As for your wife, she will have to agree with your new behavior.

Question: Is there any difference between the egoism of a woman and egoism of a man?

Answer: These are completely different types of egoism. They cannot be combined in any way.
From KabTV’s “Fundamentals of Kabbalah,” 12/31/18

How Do You Sign A Mutual Agreement With The Creator?

laitman_942Question: The Creator is the main guarantor. We sign an agreement with each other before Him with the understanding that He is behind us.

When someone in the group falls and we try to throw him a rope, but nothing happens, then we turn to Him: “You are in a contract with us, and therefore we ask you to fulfill your part of the contract. We did everything to help the friend rise, but we don’t have the strength. You are a participant in our agreement, we ask you now to pull him out.”

Do we understand correctly or not?

Answer: No. Why don’t you turn to the Creator immediately? Do you think you are capable of anything?

Remark: We think that we must put our “half shekel,” pay our price, come to the point where we are not able to do anything anymore, and then ask Him.

My Comment: In principle, it is correct. But it’s better to immediately understand that except for the Creator, no one can help anyway.

Question: How do we sign a mutual agreement in order to feel that He also participates in it?

Answer: The Creator does not participate in it, He defines it. He holds your guarantee. After all, He holds the entire system.

What does this mutual guarantee mean? In a completely closed system everyone is a guarantor for the rest. And if he does not fulfill his part, everything will collapse. Therefore, we must immediately get the Creator as a force that acts in us.

Another thing is that we can turn to Him and say: “Yes, we cannot hold this net of forces. Make it so that we understand where to do this, direct us, help, give strength! Give an understanding of what to do! Govern!” For Him it is a great joy.
From Lesson 7, World Kabbalah Convention in Moldova 9/8/19, Collecting All the States Toward the Creator

Back And Forth In The Rhythm Of Connection

laitman_962.1Thanks to the congress, we felt how we distanced ourselves a little from our ten and then drew near it again, like a pendulum swinging back and forth, changing the degree of our connection with each other or our connection with the Creator, our attitude toward the study. We had less strength, became weaker, and then got all the power back.

Each such full period of movement of the pendulum back and forth, rise and fall, does not pass without a trace, but leaves an imprint on us.1
From the Preparation for the Daily Kabbalah Lesson 11/16/19, Hardening of the Heart

1 Minute 9:20

Unity Beyond Differences: How Is it Possible? – Talk with Shaul Magid

Shaul Magid, the Distinguished Fellow in Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College, meets Kabbalist Dr. Michael Laitman to discuss anti-Semitism and how Jews can serve as an example of unity to the world.

The Jews are blamed for separating and making themselves different from other nations. However, when they try to dissolve and even accept the cultural traditions of the nations of the world, they still remain different.

According to the wisdom of Kabbalah, this is caused by a special role that the Jewish people have to perform. Jews originated 3,800 ago as a collection of 70 nations of ancient Babylon, gathered by Abraham around the principles “love your neighbor as yourself” and “love covers all transgressions.” Therefore, we cannot count Jewish people as any other nation in a biological sense. Being Jewish means consciously uniting with others in order to create one united entity and let the upper force of love and bestowal enter it.

From this point, the direct task of Jews is to show a practical implementation of Abraham’s method today and induce connection, so in the end, we all reach, as it is written, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations” (Isaiah, 56:7).

According to natural development, we are pushed to go to the final goal. Today, we can see it in a global crisis, penetrating all areas of our lives: wars, natural disasters, etc.—we cannot control it, and we don’t know how much more to come.

Kabbalah gives an opportunity to reach the final goal in a positive way. In order to do so, Jews need to reestablish and reveal to humanity the method of building positive human connections above their constantly growing egoistic nature. If they show an example of unity, then beyond all differences, races and religions, it will spread all over the globe, so the upper force of love and bestowal could enter the world and fill it with happiness.

Male And Female, Part 8

627.2Family Life — A Negotiated System

Remark: To prevent conflicts in the family, Kabbalists recommend establishing a clear framework and boundaries in the relationship in advance, not forgetting to remind about them, and not being afraid to give signals to your partner if they are violated. 

My Comment: Family life is an agreement which, of course, can change. However, it is still a contractual system.

Two people enter into a contract with each other, which is continuous, constantly changing and developing. They are then joined by children, common property, and influences on each other that greatly increase their impressions of this life, family, and so on.

That is, we have the constant expansion of the terms of the contract. Therefore, we need to discuss them all the time.

Remark: In principle, the same agreement also exists in a Kabbalistic group between friends, between like-minded people. Yet, it seems to me that there is much more communication and interaction in the family than in the Kabbalistic group. At least economically and emotionally.

In a group of like-minded people, we are connected only by the same idea, which is still abstract and does not exist in our feelings.

My Comment: If it is possible to create such a connection, such unity in the couple, it could be a very serious incentive for achieving a spiritual goal.

Question: Does it mean, that if both people agree we can take all the principles of the work in the group about which Rabash writes and apply them in the family?

Answer: It is very hard, but possible.

Question: Do I understand correctly that it is much harder to use them in the family than in the group?

Answer: I do not know. It is very hard for me to talk about this. Although I see a few such successful examples among my students and I am glad about them, so far these are a few isolated cases.

Question: Would you still recommend couples to work this way?

Answer: Yes and no. The problem is that a man must first master himself in a male group.

We see this from history. When he becomes a man, meaning he is in the group of men where he begins to receive contact with the Creator, then he can correctly connect with the right woman. It is not simple.

Question: Does the work in a family replace the work in a group?

Answer: I would not advise beginning work in the family until a person has seriously adjusted himself in the group.
From KabTV’s “Fundamentals of Kabbalah,” 12/31/18

Hanukkah For Humanity

Dr. Michael LaitmanFrom My Facebook Page Michael Laitman 12/7/19

This Is What a Hanukkah for Humanity (Not Just Jews) Looks Like

Hanukkah is a pit stop on life’s race track, coming from the words “Hanu” (“park”) and “Koh” (“here”).

The more we advance, the more we encounter such stops. They let us discern what we have done, and whether we should change our direction in order to progress more optimally.

Humanity Needs to Stop and Change Direction

At one point or another, we all encounter thoughts that throw our whole path in life into question: “What am I doing with my life?” “Am I living my life to the maximum, or am I wasting it?” “How can I live in a way where I won’t be sorry afterward for not making the most out of it?”

The more we plod on in life, we more we find ourselves struggling with all kinds of circumstances. We thus need to ask ourselves: “What are we struggling for?” “What is the purpose of it all?” “Where are we headed?” “What does it mean to ‘win’ in this struggle?”

Sometimes, we find ourselves in situations that make us stop and rethink our lives’ entire course. Also, sometimes we need to forcefully stop ourselves, even if we want to continue, recalculate where we’re headed, and whether we should impact a change for a better future.

Today, we are in latency. Even though society races forward, we still have the opportunity to look at ourselves from aside, and ask: “Where are we headed?” “Are we going the right way?” “If we detect that we’re going the wrong way, do we have the ability to change direction?”

Therefore, we should see in the words, “Hanu” and “Koh” (“park here”), a desire brewing in humanity to cry out and stop the current way we’re running our lives, and change to a more fruitful direction.

The Problem With Our Individualistic, Consumerist and Materialistic Lifestyles

Our current individualistic, consumerist and materialistic lifestyles, where we live from one Friday to the next, are leading us into greater debt. Our debt is not only monetary, it is our lag behind our balance with nature’s increased demands on us: to connect our attitudes to each other in order to match nature’s connectedness.

It is impossible to pay back the massive debt we have accumulated, but one way or another, we’ll have to pay it. In the meantime, we continue extracting from nature as much as we possibly can.

Neither do we listen to our own thoughts that momentarily surface, questioning the way we live our lives, as they get drowned in the noise of the constant barrage of mixed messages, nor do we listen to those who explain to us how nature operates on us, the general tendency of our development, and offer advice on how we can benefit our future progress.

Ignoring these hints for change, we continue running our egoistic race.

How Hanukkah Is a State Humanity Needs to Undergo Today

Essentially, humanity needs to stop for a moment and think of how it can achieve more balance within itself and with nature. Hanukkah is much more than a holiday marked on a few calendars. It is what humanity as a whole needs to undergo.

However, we can make no such stop until we recognize the cause of our individualistic, consumerist and materialistic lifestyles, gaining awareness of how the consumerist cycle—manufacturing products we don’t need, advertising them so that we want them, buying, selling and disposing of them—ultimately does no good to ourselves or to our planet.

We are overdue in making this pit stop. If we continue business as usual, then we can simply count the days it will take till nature will activate a major blow upon us: pressures and disasters that would make life unbearable.

However, what is the alternative? If we stop our current consumerist race, what would be able to replace it? And how would we know its replacement would be better?

The Alternative to Consumerism: Positive Connection

In order to understand consumerism’s alternative of positive connection, we need to first understand the importance of social influence.

Society determines our values according to what it promotes to us as enjoyable, worthwhile and important. The fact that we compare ourselves to others and try to have what they have, then since we’re promoted consumer goods all the time, seeing people enjoying and discussing them, we thus also want them.

Therefore, we need to determine what is most advantageous for us all to enjoy, so that we won’t live our lives in a way where we empty our pockets to fill richer pockets, whenever we make a transaction to buy something else we don’t need.

For instance, instead of Black Friday, we could advertise a “Global Picnic Day,” a day where families and friends meet up in a park, at the beach, in nature, or go to the cinema or a trip somewhere—to promote a fun day together with family and friends. It all depends on what we decide to promote to ourselves. If we saw people around the world posting about themselves on Global Picnic Day, on the news and social media, celebrities, influencers and all our friends celebrating it in different ways, we would find ourselves also wanting to organize ourselves somehow to enjoy the day. We would also find that such a day would give people much more pleasure than a global day of buying and selling.

So why don’t we do that?

Instead of wasting our money buying a whole bunch of things that we’ll mostly discard of, we would instead focus on enjoying ourselves in positive connection with other people.

Therefore, if we really stopped the way we currently live our lives, we could pop the consumerist-materialistic bubble that we have blown up around ourselves, and start to advertise a new approach to life that we could ultimately enjoy a lot more from: one where we focus on positively connecting to each other, and which would bring us to greater balance in our relationships and with nature in general.