The inspiration for Zero = abundance first came from the outdoor apparel brand, Patagonia, well known for its high quality products and commitment to protecting the environment. As part of their effort to minimize the negative environmental impact of mass-production/mass-consumption, Patagonia launched their “Worn Wear” project to celebrate people who keep wearing the clothes they already own, rather than buying new ones. To support this campaign, they made some beautiful “Worn Wear” short films.
The films tell stories of Patagonia users stories who keep wearing the same gear until the clothes are literally worn out. Some are athletes who have surfed, hiked, cross -country skied, all wearing Patagonia gear. Others are people who have worked on a farm, or raised children wearing Patagonia fleeces and vests. They proudly “boast” about their worn clothes, weathered, ripped and repaired so many times over so many years. It seems that people in the films saw their Patagonia clothes as an extension of themselves, since they had gone through the same adventures, experiences and memorable moments together.
The peculiar thing is, although the films are all about worn gear or products that theoretically should have “depreciated” in value – if we were to borrow an economic term and yet there is no sense that the motivation of the users is stinginess, deficiency or sacrifice. Instead, there is simply a prevailing sense of satisfaction. People in the movie looked to be living their lives to the fullest. While material luxury was absent, their lives seemed radiant. It was apparent from their beautiful smiles coming from deep inside their healthily sunbaked skin.
Patagonia must have created this movie to raise awareness about the risks of our economic system that heavily relies on over-production and over-consumption. But, lost in the beauty of the films, I almost forgot about the environmental message.
This overflow of satisfaction struck me. I was in awe.
How come these people can feel so content by wearing the same old rugged clothes? How come they look so beautiful in supposedly depreciated, shabby clothes?
I had to question if I could wear a smile as beautiful as theirs if I were to pose in front of a camera with such worn clothes. Well probably I don’t have to worry about it. I don’t have any “worn wears” to begin with. I don’t have any clothes that I have trusted so much, clothes that I’ve worn through as many life-defining moments like the folks in the films.
They reminded me of an empty glass.
A glass so full because it’s empty.
And this is not just rhetoric.
By watching the movie, I literally felt the fullness because of its emptiness, and that’s the same theme that Buddhism has been pursuing for thousands of years. We are all empty, and we are all beautiful exactly because of the emptiness.
Implications are significant. If we can demystify the mystery of the relationship between emptiness and happiness, we can prove that “less” is actually the source of happiness. Then we should be able to flip our assumptions that “more” is abundant but “less” is detrimental. We should be able to start re-defining how our happiness should look like, and how we pursue it.