Ever since Adam and Eve strolled out of the Garden, it's not so much that we want stuff, so much as we want the stuff that other people have.
For example, if you lived in a trailer park, and all your friends and everybody you knew lived in a trailer park, wouldn't you be relatively satisfied with that? Or if you lived in some part of the world where indoor plumbing wasn't ubiquitous or was even rare. Wouldn't you be pretty happy just to have one small bathroom (and not the massive double-sinked, separate shower, separate toilet room master bath along with guest baths and pretty half-baths in your house or apartment)?
This recent entry from a friend's blog showcases the phenomenon of wanting what someone else has, rather than looking around to take in the wealth of stuff you already have. The mom writes:
I got out of the shower to hear the loudest screaming and crying I have ever heard in my house. Man, it’s a buzz kill to get out of an already rushed shower to screaming, crying children. K and G were crying and yelling at each other. I came running downstairs to discover that they were fighting over . . . (get ready): a BOX. A dirty, broken down box that K's school supplies came in yesterday. “Are you kidding me?” I thought.Then I clicked open the Fashion & Style pages of the New York Times to discover this story, (registration required) "Brant vs. Brant: Divorce Celebrity Style." Turns the fabu-model / billionaire married-15-years couple Stephanie and Peter Brant are playing out their divorce to similar dramatic effect.
Their wedding—a soirée at a Parisian estate chock full of international bold names wasn't enough to keep their relationship from deteriorating into a squall over, well, just stuff. Albeit expensive stuff like 44 Warhol paintings, chandeliers, silver, china and some lighting fixtures. Still, notes Laura M. Holson: "No one falls in love thinking they will end up sparring over sconces."
What we want, oft seems to be, simply what someone else has.
Which may be why Internet entrepreneur and billionaire Jim Clark said, when asked by a reporter if his billions were enough: No, I would like, if even for a moment, to have more than anyone else.*
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards sing it loud, "I can't get no satisfaction."
*The New New Thing: A Silicon Valley Story by Michael Lewis (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2000), p. 260.