Don't Do Diderot

Friday, January 4, 2019

When I was 13, I got into an argument with my mom. The basis was that I had to follow her rules because I rely on her for money. For clothes, food, school, etc. "Well," I thought to my stubborn self, "I simply will not ask for anything, ever again."

I had cash saved from various birthday/holiday gifts. And, here and there, I made an arrangement with my Dad to go buy $12 cartons of Newport Ice cigarettes in Indiana, where I would then sell them to my fellow classmates at $3 a pack. That's right, I was a 8th grade hustler of cigarettes that were illegal in Illinois. So, I had a little bit of money to get though my final year of jr. high.

My mother still provided me with a ton of things, but from my perspective, I was never going to outwardly ask for spending money ever again. I learned how to stretch my dollar, and started assessing what I really needed to purchase, and what was bullshit. When my friends and I would go to the mall, they would get frozen coffee drinks, and I would pass. I needed to save that $4 to put towards Jnco jeans.

There was a truck-stop diner that was hiring, so I applied there when I was 17, and starting waiting tables, in order to save up for my senior class trip to Cancun. I worked there 2 days a week, taking only a few tables, and I averaged about $100 a week.

It was difficult to balance the 2 work days with high school, so as soon as I made enough to cover the trip, and related expenses (and whatever I needed to spend while I was saving), I quit the job because I didn't quite understand putting oneself through torture for money, if you didn't need to. At this point, I had built up a mindset to not desire possessions, and I didn't need any more money for my lifestyle.

The years went on, I became an adult and began having "real" bills and responsibilities. But even though I now understood why we have to torture ourselves, I still did not mentally value the dollar bill enough to continue slaving for it, if I did not need to. It's fucking evil.

My mental VALUE is upon living life. We're all going to DIE; this is unavoidable. So, why get hypnotized into a structure where we work 5 days a week, run errands on day 6, and be a zombie on day 7? Over and over again? To own things??? One needs to make an income to be a functioning member of this economic society. And by all means, I realize that it also costs money to enjoy life and buy things that truly provoke happiness. But why try to own everything? Why own so much? For what? For who? What the fuck is going on?

In the present, I continue to have the mindset to not buy crap that I don't need. There's a difference between being a cheap prick, and not giving a shit about material possessions. It's frustrating to me to see people who buy so much junk, and then worry about their paycheck and the future, when they are doing it to themselves. It appears to be a vicious cycle of chasing happiness.

I've always opted for multiple part time gigs over one career, for the schedule freedom. But also in the event that I lose my job (gig), I am not losing my entire income (and to some people: life). One of my current gigs as a bartender allows me to meet many different people from different walks of life. And here and there, I'll get a classic shit-for-brains, who asks the question, "So, what do you really do/are going to do for work?" This bad-etiquette personality type is so gross to me, but I don't find offense in it.

With that question, they have revealed to me that they are clueless. Explaining to them that I am more than sustained by my lifestyle will be like talking to a wall; they certainly are not going to have an epiphany at the bar if I tell them that I am happy without a bunch of money. So, I answer, "Huh? This is it..." And watch them begin to mouth-breathe as they try to wrap their mind around the thought of an adult without a career-path.

Today, I came across a French philosopher name Denis Diderot, and something called the Diderot Effect. It is such a wonderful illustration to explain my confusion with others. I am elated that I can pat myself on the back and proclaim that I have successfully evaded this rabbit hole my entire life. And it also explains my perplexion with materialistic people.

In summary, it explains that one new purchase leads to many new purchases.

Ex.) "I need a new refrigerator." = "Well, I have to buy a stove, dishwasher and microwave that match."

In his fictional essay, "Regrets on Parting with My Old Dressing Gown," Diderot writes how he had a shitty robe that he wore around his small apartment. The robe was his second skin, and he was free to live life in comfort. That is, until a friend gifted him with a gorgeous, scarlet robe. Upon receiving this quality item, he began to become disgusted by his surroundings, that were not on the same level as the robe. His furniture wasn't worthy enough to the robe, so he purchased quality furniture to sit upon. Well, the rugs were tattered, so it only made sense to buy complementary and matching decor. Then, art for the wall, and so on, and so on. The tale ends with him in debt, a complete slave to the latest and greatest possessions. Petty af.



- "Poverty has its freedoms; opulence has its obstacles.”

- "I was the absolute master of my old robe. I have become the slave of the new one."

Grant McCracken coined "the Diderot Effect" in 1988, to talk about people today who constantly buy things to feel fulfilled. Now I have a reference to wrap my mind around when I see people being ridiculous (aka: Black Friday).

One can still buy anything that is desired, to enjoy life, and to take care of oneself, without going apeshit. Personally, I spend all my ejaculation* money on restaurants and beer. These things bring me an experience that aids in my enjoyment on this earth.

* I budget my income into 3 categories: 1.) Monthly: a set amount that will cover that month's bills and other inevitable spending. 2.) Savings: my future, vacations, unexpected home maintenance. And 3.) Ejaculation: leftovers what I can BLOW on pleasure items (which are mostly things that go into stomach).

I do not buy things to compete with others. I don't want a better purse, or clothes, or any "labels." I don't want my boyfriend to buy my a huge ring. I don't desire possessions that are so expensive, that they can't even be handled out of fear of them getting worn in and losing monetary value. These things do not define a person's soul.

As I reread what I've typed thus far, I fear that my tone may sound condescending. And I will admit, that there may be some truth in that, but it's because I really despise money and the world around it. And it's saddening to see people who love it. I am grateful that my mind did not go that route. So yeah: I do believe that I am better off.

And let me be clear that it is none of my business what people want to do with their money or life. No adult needs to give a shit what another adult wants or does, as long as it doesn't cause harm to any other living beings that are on the earth. (Money does those things, though...) However, if one is caught up in the Diderot Effect to the point where it is causing conflict, then that's the motivation of this blog entry: to provide insight towards a solution. As I mentioned, this is a new term for me, and my posting on my website is to share what I have learned, using personal experience. Maybe someone can take that term and use it to make a positive change.

Last disclaimer, I do not give in to this current United States of where everyone is offended and butthurt over everything. But I do have compassion for others who are not doing well. This blog entry is not intended for those who are struggling to work, and are trying to make ends meet while they live in poverty. Obviously, money is priority number one in that type of situation, since our fellow humans are currently competing with one and other, rather than helping.

This blog entry is directed at those who have everything they can possibly need at their fingertips, but are sucked into an alternate reality, and they don't realize it. In that instance, don't be like Diderot. Possessions do not define your identity. Run away, Simba. Run away and never return.


Today is the anniversary of my mom's passing in 2016. Thanks, Mom, for arguing with a bull-headed teenager and sparking something that would affect my entire life.