Materialism and the Adult Toddler

I love a certain quote by The Minimalist.  They end their podcast and even their documentary Minimalism with this quote. It is a play on words and it speaks volumes.

Love people,  use things.  The opposite never works.

The Minimalist

Obviously the opposite would be to use people and love things. To most people this sounds terrible.  What decent person would admit to this?


excessively concerned with physical comforts or the acquisition of wealth and materialpossessions, rather than with spiritual, intellectual, or cultural values.

The way we live our lives should be in reverse order of the definition of materialistic. We should be excessively concerned with spiritual,  intellectual,  or cultural values rather than wealth or material possessions.

The materialistic person,  to me,  is like a perpetual toddler.  Toddlers have no concept of sharing or helping.  They are all about me and mine.  Throw one toy in the middle of a group of toddlers and trouble will follow.  None of them are thinking in the least bit about the other.  It is every man toddler for himself.

As an adult you can feel like you are just the servant fetching things for this toddler.  They point and grunt at a sippy cup or a snack.  You get it for them. Afterwords, they don’t reply with a thank you very much I really appreciate that.  No, it’s just on to the next thing to get into.

It’s the job of parents to help this tiny little person out of a world of me and into a world of us.  They have to learn to share and not hit.  They have to learn to ask politely for something and to express thankfulness.

These issues of character, spirituality, and community come out of maturity in an individual. These are areas where we need growth.  These are areas that bring out the good things in life.  These are areas in which a society thrives.

Materialism is something of the toddler in us.  It creeps up when someone else gets something. Inside you feel the mine I want that.  Instead of being happy for the other person you come to dislike them. This is the toddler brain.
I remember being at a restaurant enjoying great food and friends. To the side of us was a young couple on what looked like a date.  The young guy looked a bit overwhelmed, he kept his head down most of the time.  On the other side of the table was a young lady with a huge scowl on her face.  Throughout our entire meal I watched as she pointed at her food in disgust and treated the restaurant staff as mere servants who could not please her highness.  What a sad sight. I felt sorry for the poor guy because he was next.  Her toddler brain is going to destroy him like she did the waiters and waitresses.

Try to have a good conversation with a toddler.  They don’t have much to offer.  They really only have basic demands and things they want.  They will hold up a toy they are playing with and may even ask you to play with them. They will not ask you how your day was.  If you begin to talk about anything beyond their current situation they will lose interest, especially if it is not about them. Have you met a grown person like this? They spend most of their time speaking of what they are doing and what they have.  Everything seems to be a show. Nothing is to be gained talking to this person.  They seem to be communicating like a toddler. Although, toddlers are cute.  They say funny things and are fun. Grown ups like this are just sad.
It takes no effort for humans to complain and want more. It comes natural. It does take a lot of maturity and growth for someone to develop a sense of character and purpose. 

Our world can sometimes seem to value material things and not the person. A person with nice things appears to be doing well in life.  People want to be friends with people like this.  We don’t name drop a friends name and follow with he’s the most patient person I have ever met.  No, it’s usually yeah Doctor so and so and I went to the….. We seem to be valuing the toddler brain and not the true valuable things.


Happiness, contentment, and joy are not found in things.  Sure, things will make you happy for a short time.  Give a toddler a piece of candy, instant happiness. Though, it will not last.  Their happiness depends on continually getting things.  Try telling a toddler he can’t have candy before supper.

Having nice stuff should not be the ultimate driving force in one’s life. It’s  quite ironic, though, that many people who focus on the non material things do go on to gain many material things.  They get it as a result of who they are. The difference is, if they lose their wealth all is not lost.

When we focus on the higher calling in life we also learn to be happy through this.  Its harder to take away maturity. You may lose a job and thus lose your things but true friends and family will still be there.  You will still be a loving and giving person.  You will still be kind and fun.  You will not lose the things you learn or the memories you have.

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