First World Problems

I had a revelation the other day.

The catalyst for this revelation came in a barber shop. A Turkish barber shop. It was a pleasant Saturday afternoon. Middle eastern MTV blared out as young men with beards went about their business wielding buzzing trimmers and cut throat razors.

It was in this barber shop that I had my ears waxed.

I don’t know who you are or where you are physically located. I don’t know your age, your sex nor do I know your social economic standing. I therefore don’t know if you are someone who considers man ear waxing as a normal thing. Or if you even know such a ‘thing’ exists.

Well it does, and when this ‘new’ thing was offered to me mid haircut, for a very reasonable additional sum and carrying promises such as ‘No need to worry about ear hair for a month’ or ‘Your lady is going to love it’ I jumped at the chance.

What self-respecting 46-year-old man wouldn’t want lady friendly ears?

As it turns out, and for the rest of my living days. Me.

Its now been a month since I handed over hard-earned cash to have my ears ripped off.

Nothing has grown out of my ears since the moment I was exposed to rendition levels of pain and violence. I’m genuinely worried that nothing will ever grow there again, nor my skin ever return to its normal colour.

It was later that day, as I slathered ointment on the sides of my head, that I had my revelation.

Why has ear waxing become something I would be willing to pay money for? Has my life come down to this? Have I been working, studying, travelling and sucking it up for all these years just so I can afford to buy smooth ears? Or for that matter an echo dot? Or a Netflix account. Or two ply toilet roll? Or organic Ginger Beer? The answer to these questions, and many many more is, sadly yes.

Now that I have sufficient money coming into my account to cover the basics of food, shelter, safety and transportation any surplus gets applied to the next thing on my hierarchy of needs. Sitting way up on top, where the air is thin, teetering right on the summit, are two bald ears.

This is the pinnacle of my life.

I have the TV, the smartphone, the car, the holiday and a modest wardrobe. I am not wealthy but I have everything I need so now my life has moved on to the things I think I need. I was gifted my life by my parents. I had the good fortune to be born in a place where liberty is a given so what else is there but the pursuit of happiness?

This is the first world I live in and most people who have the hardware and the connectivity to read this live in a similar pllace. Hierarchies, like people, are unique but the thing which links us all is the pursuit of more.

Without this inherent human desire to acquire the world would be a very different place.

I’m not saying it would be a better place, Marx tried that some time ago and we know all how that ended up.

It might not be better, but it certainly would be very different.

The huge majority of companies in the world only exist to satisfy this need, Apple are certainly the biggest and exemplify this perfectly. You could argue long and hard if they actually offer anything different or something better than its nearest competitor. But who cares about that? Apple offer cool. Their products clearly have a desirability factor which sets them apart.

Q: Do you really need a new iPhone 8? A: No.

Q: Do you want one…?

Its this, almost unconscious, pursuit of more which fuels companies like Apple and all the others; cars, clothing, food, cosmetics, hardware, software and on and on and on.

I have a Mont Blanc pen and an IWC watch. Both are very nice things.

My watch manages to lose a minute every day, it has stopped working twice since I bought it five years ago and I have managed to work my way through two wrist straps in this time. This watch was 1,000x more expensive than my other watch, a Casio digital, which has not lost a second since I got it and has a strap which will easily last a millennia, or two.

My expensive pen does write as good as a bic though – so that’s good.

I am as guilty as anyone for buying into the marketing and the lifestyle of these companies. I also want more.

I absorb it consciously or unconsciously and without even knowing why, I want something. I might take longer than most to determine if I really need it, weighing up the utility vs the desirability but in the end desirability normally wins the day.

Of course, as we all know, the purchase satisfaction is short lived and then I am left with the utility, if it ever existed.

Once I have my iPhone 8, I may spend a few days playing with whatever new features it offers me but pretty fast it normalises and I’m then off in search of covers or apps or something else to maintain the feeling I had when I purchased it in the first place.

So what to do?

Well, if I have an unconscious desire for more sickness then the cure has to be to a conscious desire for less.

So this was my barber shop revelation – to realise I simply do not need everything I have and that the things I have give me little pleasure.

That’s that then. Simple solution – want less.

Well no, of course not. Just like trying to stop smoking or anything else I’m addicted to it will take time and it will take effort. But in all seriousness, all joking aside, I am going to do this.

But first I need to make a list and determine what things I need to help me understand the things I don’t.

I need to understand the base level of my needs hierarchy to create this list of the things I really need to survive.

And the first item on that list?

Hairy ears.