My cousin brother just started his new job few months back. This is the first time when he is living away from his home but more importantly, he is financial independent now. So considering his eternal love for bikes, we were discussing on all the viable options. We finally zeroed down on 2 bikes, after a detailed analysis. Although both of them were top notch in their respective segments but one of them was more popular (and hence common) than the other. I somehow liked the popular one more and when my brother asked about my preference, I clearly voice out mine. However my brother gave a very interesting reasoning for not choosing the one I suggested:

“Although this is great, but it is very common. Even my milkman rides it.”

I quickly understood what he meant but this posed a very serious question to me,
Whether the value of an entity can be ever be determined on an absolute scale at all or is it always a relative affair?

Needs or Wants?

Since earlier humans were foragers they lead a pretty nomadic life. They didn’t have the privilege to accumulate a lot of material possessions. They carried only the essential items. Later with the advent of agriculture, humans started settling down near their farms which greatly checked their nomadic streaks. Now they gradually started having more possessions too. It started from crop reserves and later evolved into sophisticated artifacts.

If you talk about the modern era, with the rise of capitalism, a different class of products are being marketed to the consumers. Unlike the essential goods, a lot of them are luxury products. In layman’s term, you don’t necessarily need them to sustain a living. For instance, access to clean and portable drinking water is an essential requirement to sustain a healthy life but whether you ride a BMW or a Maruti 800 has very little to do with your subsistence. (Of course, not talking about you vulnerable social repute!)

Now if you think carefully, most of the times these luxury goods are evaluated on a relative scale. All of us want to ride a better car than the neighbor (if possible). I understand that these goods do have an intrinsic utility and they indeed make our lives easy and pleasurable but a large chunk of this pleasure comes from exclusivity.

Glamour of exclusivity

It is a well established fact that humans, particularly due to our unique social tendencies, crave exclusivity. We have been sold stuff in the name of Limited edition watches, cell phones, art forms and what not. Sometimes, it was just this competition that helped a soft yellow metal (Gold) to capture large empires. Other times, the outlook of our friend circle shaped our relationship choices, if not directly then subtly.

Sometimes we take this craving too far and race for acquiring something which was never central to our interest circle but was put there by our peers. We just disregard the true utility of that supposedly highly valued entity for us and assume that just because it is being chased a lot, its acquisition is bound to be a worthy pursuit. Often neglecting a thought that maybe this would have been a right thing to do for them but not for us?

An even more ironical observation is that, to acquire some common entity which was supposed to make us exclusive, we resort to pretty generic means. Without inventing creative approaches we are tempted to resort to the same rut that everyone else is stuck in. And why not? When others can decide what should we pursue, we might as well imitate their means to achieve that too. After all they know us better than we know ourselves. Right?

Defining your fulfillment

My sports teacher used to talk about an inner compass that could help us in visualizing a larger picture by looking inwards. This is a very counter intuitive idea but actually it is nothing new and has been stressed upon by numerous gurus and contemporary faith schools.

The idea revolves around our ability to isolate what we truly want from what we think we want. Of course, it requires a great deal of introspection to identify those deep seated desires and motives that can really bring us fulfillment. In fact, the diversity of our internal fabric dictates that we have different definitions of this black box called fulfillment. If that is the case, it is very obvious that we should first define our fulfillment without setting our sails to achieve it because without it, we will be just working towards achieving an imitation of someone else’s fulfillment.

Therefore, a good way to avoid falling into this trap is to take a bottom up approach. Looking inwards before seeking from others. Being cognizant of this tempting tendency to let others decide for us, can help turn cogs differently. Maybe visualizing ourselves away from the societal forces around us (Something like social shielding just like electromagnetic shielding) can help make difficult but right choices (Does the right choice always have to be a difficult one?).

I can’t answer everything here, I shouldn’t.
But I would certainly implore you to define your own fulfillment.
And maybe to do it before you purchase a new bike. 😜