In recent decades, the American Dream has been replaced by consumerism, gluttony, and multiple drug epidemics. Yes, these troubles are undeniably real, but perhaps they are symptoms of a larger problem.
Maybe we’re buying nonessentials because we’re looking for something we’ve lost. Maybe we’re overeating because we’re trying to fill a void. Maybe we don’t have an opioid crisis so much as we have a crisis of meaning.
To find meaning is to find something that fulfills us, that propels us forward during the finite time we have on Earth. Hoarding, gourmandism, and substance abuse do the opposite: these addictions drag us in a direction we don’t want to travel.
The antidote, then, isn’t to simply abstain from everything. Abstinence alone leaves a void. Rather, we must walk toward the activities that provide purpose in our daily lives—creativity, community, contribution—to walk away from our vices.