The Inconvenient Truth of the Diamond-Cut Life

Bad news here for the advertising industry, but good news for human beings and all other species. Research from many countries shows that after people’s survival needs and some reasonable pleasure needs are met, consumption piled-higher-and-deeper does NOT create more happiness. Rich is not great. Greed is not cool. Working harder might be moving you backward.

Inconvenient, at least for 20th century notions of economic growth and GDP, but true.

Hence my embracing of the diamond-cut life (partly inspired by Jared Diamond, whose latest book is Collapse). If happiness can be symbolized by a diamond that gets cut from the surrounding cultural rock of over-consumption, which things cut from our lives can best craft the diamond? What are the best uses of our time?

I want to hear from other people about their experiences. What’s true for me is that I am genuinely happy, as my household consumes significantly less than the average U.S. home. The real rock we’ve cut away is the need to impress anyone on material terms. Our house is small and modestly furnished but we host lots of visitors. I buy my clothes at Goodwill and look just fine. Our only car is a 15 year old Nissan Sentra that mostly guards the house while we take the bus to work.

Think of how little control corporations would have over us if we decided to put “time management ” in service to human happiness and conserving the earth’s resources rather than doing more work in less time to make more money to buy more stuff. Which reminds me of a favorite group whose motto is “More fun, less stuff”: Center for New American Dream.

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3 Responses to “The Inconvenient Truth of the Diamond-Cut Life”


  1. 2 Nayel Badareen January 5, 2008 at 6:46 am

    I think the key factor as you mentioned is consuming. It is not surprising to me that we Americans consume more than other countries. What surprises me the most is the passive attitude many of us take when confronted with the idea of change.
    The change in our society should start at an early age, at home, in school, and at every social gathering. For if we do not take the initiative to change corporations will not.

  2. 3 Cindy Reed January 7, 2008 at 6:06 pm

    Great comments Alison. I admire that you live so closely to a simple life, better than anyone I know.

    While we can all do more to leave a smaller carbon footprint, modern life can get complex. Paying for mortgages along with other financial responsibilities requires working in corporate America for some of us. When hierarchy within a corporation requires us to do something, we do, whether it suits us or is in alignment with our values 100% of the time.

    Your lifestyle and writing is a clarion call to others to do what they can.

    But don’t forget kind compassion for those who can’t live as simply (and admirably) as you do.


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