After Liquid Times: Spirituality and the Search for Purpose


Emerging habits foster self-knowledge and new businesses suggest a lifestyle less focused on the accumulation of capital

by Marina Colerato translated by Pronoia Tradutória

Since the Industrial Revolution in the late 19th century, we have been bombarded with the message that to be happy, successful people with full lives, we must spend our money on the status symbols responsible for ensuring these capitalist endorsements – cars, clothes, jewelry, cell phones, etc. We have been programmed to believe that possessions create happiness.

But the situation is changing as a result of this very perception, making conscious consumption a logical choice. Lowsumerism arises in inquisitive societies that are looking for new ways to relate to the modern world.

With this new awareness, the search for spirituality has been renewed. In recent years, a collective movement of greater introspection has promoted a less selfish and self-centered perspective, allowing us to see our relationships with the world and other people in a more integrated way.

Despite society’s frantic abundance of connections, there is an equal level of disconnection. Without realizing it, we have disconnected from everything we know – family, friends, society, the environment, ourselves, and whatever we understand as God or the universe.

Rocío Montoya
Rocío Montoya

We are more than the sum of our possessions

The modern quest for spirituality can be seen in our daily habits: the popularization of yoga-at-your-desk, the growth of veganism and intestinal peace, increased respect for integrative medicine… These practices promote self-knowledge above all; they are far from dogma and closer to the “true self”.

They are sources of satisfaction that can lead to a life free from the social and cultural ties created by consumerism. We cannot completely and truthfully identify ourselves through consumer goods alone, and the realization of this fact is becoming increasingly tangible. After all, the more we possess, the unhappier we feel.

“The return to spirituality does not necessarily correspond to an adherence to traditional religious institutions and codes.” — Ulrich Beck

Why now?

An interest in spirituality is nothing new among people in the West. Pop culture has been promoting Eastern philosophies such as Buddhism and its ancient teachings since the 1960's. In the 1970s, spirituality was one of the driving forces behind the feminist, racial and ecological movements.

Meditação coletiva no Parque do Ibirapuera, em São Paulo
Collective meditation in Ibirapuera Park, São Paulo

In modern philhosophy, Soren Kierkegaard, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Martin Heidegger state that the being is constructed by each and every action. For existentialists, we are not born with a definite purpose, and we are constantly searching for a way to fill the void created by the lack of meaning in our existence.

Given the current political and economic uncertainty, the lack of confidence in governability, and the rise of social movements working against the tide of conservatism, there is a growing belief that we are not born simply to pay the bills and then die.

Society is starting to ask more questions in search of more satisfactory answers. This spiritual consciousness is linked to the search for a greater purpose.

“The arduous task of composing a life cannot be reduced to a series of enjoyable episodes. Life is greater than the sum of its moments.” — Zygmunt Bauman

It is through this search for meaning and for the purpose of our existence that spiritual practices are gradually gaining more ground in people’s lives. Precious time is now spent on looking within, searching for self-knowledge. Yoga and meditation have never been so popular. Spiritual retreats like Piracanga, have become the new dream destinations. Busy cosmopolitan life, with its malls, stores, bars and clubs, begins to seem less appealing than a sustainable home in an ecovillage.

Purpose in the labor market

Being happy, for the spiritualized “self”, is linked to collaborating with the happiness of others and building a better world. In pursuit of a better world for us all, people with altruistic intentions look beyond their own self, and position themselves as change agents: they amplify their values in the business world by questioning the boundaries between work, play, and society.

People who have found their greater purpose often create companies that inspire changes and strive for more than financial profit. These initiatives question the unanimity of the current economic system, offering alternatives such as conscious capitalism, solidarity economy, social business, collaborative economy, sustainable economy, and post-capitalism.

Sevenly: the platform uses art and design to raise funds for important causes. Over US$ 4 million has been raised for social projects under the motto: “people matter”. The platform’s first campaign in 2011 helped provide shelter and care for 29 girls rescued from sex trafficking.

Catarina Mina: these craftspeople and crocheters have the security of a monthly income, but work from home, in their own time and at their own pace.

Imagina Coletivo: organização sem fins lucrativos que ativa o potencial de transformação dos brasileiros através de projetos em que todos são protagonistas na construção do mundo que imaginam.
Imagina Coletivo: a non-profit organization that helps Brazilians achieve their transformative potential through projects in which everyone plays a key role in building the world as they imagine it.
people tree
People Tree: a fashion company whose objective is to ensure the quality of life and social mobility of everyone working in their value chain, from cotton farmers to craftspeople and seamstresses.

We can thus conclude that discovery of the “self” and a greater purpose based on the self-knowledge provided by spirituality, or the latent need to fill a now empty space formerly occupied by consumer goods, is a way of subverting the order of these “liquid times”, whose premises are fluidity and transience. The new purposes bypass the logic of capitalism and suggest a more inclusive lifestyle, less focused on the accumulation of capital.

“Do not seek satisfaction in material objects and desires. Seek pure, indestructible and unconditional bliss within yourself, and you will have found an ever-new joy.” — Paramahansa Yogananda, founder of the Self-Realization Fellowship

The era we live in encourages us to establish new and more connected ways of living in society. Next time you buy something or conduct business, ask yourself about the purpose of your actions and whether you are expressing the truth of your spirit and soul.

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