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I watched a video clip this morning of different celebrities confirming the truth that fame and wealth don’t bring happiness. It was a refreshing confirmation of a reality that many people choose to ignore.

However, as I reflect, I can’t help but see how consumerism and all the loud noise it creates can force us to listen to the sound of half truths and falsehoods that subconsciously set our agenda for life priorities and define for us what will make us happy. It works its magic upon us without us even realising. Let me give you one surprising example of how commerce has directly influenced you without you knowing it:

Johannes Guttenberg invented the printing press somewhere between 1439 and 1440. Its capacity to introduce mass communication to the world saw it become one of the biggest technological advances of the modern world. One of his goals was to mass print and publish the Bible – something never done before in the history of religion. Unfortunately, to cut a long story short, Gutenberg ended up exiled and bankrupt.

Now for the interesting part of the story – William Caxton, an English merchant is thought to be the first person to introduce the printing press in England. What did he first publish? The Canterbury Tales, by William Chaucer (not quite as noble as the Bible, but he was a businessman!). Why is this all relevant? Because at the time, the English language wasn’t standardised. Which dialect should he chose to print in and why? He set up in Westminster and chose the dialect of the clerks. He chose, metaphorically, the language of money to determine the language for standardisation. Fast forward a few hundred years and we all speak the version of English that we do – thanks to consumerism and the influence of the mighty dollar!

I share this because consumerism, whilst it has its merits, is in many cases, driven by profit more than purpose. Businesses will tell you that purchasing their goods will bring you happiness and value in order for you to buy their product. The CEO of Revlon, Charles Revson famously said “in the factory we make lipstick, in the store we sell hope.” Coke sells happiness (just don’t tell the nutritionists!), McDonalds sells love (though ignore the court cases in 2007 where it was being sold to you by underage workers). Starbucks want to inspire and nurture the human spirit according to their mission statement (although tax avoidance left the UK tax authorities pretty uninspired!).

I say all this because, we should not be defined by pop culture, mass opinions, company agendas or other stereotypical  perspectives that continually bombard us.

Regardless of how we look, what we wear and what we do for work etc. we are all of infinite worth. We need to understand that because we are loved we are of worth. Our capacity to love and be loved is what will bring about our greatest sense of happiness and fulfilment. The security this brings plants our feet on solid ground. It shelters us from the fierce easterly winds of envy. It anchors us in the storms of stress and reassures and comforts us during times of distress and disappointment. If you want to feel happier – do something selfless for someone else. If you want more purpose – make someone happy. Cheer them up and lift their spirits. Change the world one person at a time.

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