I am a man of discerning taste. What most people find to suffice in all sorts of areas of everyday life, I approach with a more critical eye. I enjoy things of high quality not because of any perceived sense of luxury they have, but because the meticulous attention to detail found in a fine electric guitar or pair of boots reflects my own values and love of fine craftsmanship.
Of course, it’s nearly impossible (unless you are fabulously rich) to live with this attitude toward every single thing in your life. There are many areas in which I am not particularly discerning or have no real interest – coffee, watches, cameras, home audio, and so on.
I mostly take this attitude toward two particular hobbies of mine: men’s casual clothing and guitar gear. From jeans to effects pedals, the stuff you’ll find at a run-of-the-mill store is usually pretty dissatisfactory for me. I tend to pursue very specific aesthetics and performance from my hobby implements, which just aren’t found in mass-produced items. I find it well worth the expenditure to buy higher-quality stuff that’s made with a greater attention to detail.
However, while I make no apologies for this, I have noticed that there is an ever-present temptation toward dissatisfaction with even very high quality things. Although I have a great collection of jeans and boots at this point, I always find myself thinking that I could upgrade to something just a little bit better, which would make me a little more happy. Sure, a Fender American Deluxe Thinline Telecaster would be the perfect guitar for me and a better instrument than my meager musical skill could ever justify, but a Gibson Custom Shop ES-335 or a Veritas guitar, either of which cost twice as much, would be even better.
The struggle, as I’ve realized, is that past a certain point of quality, such things descend into pointless self-indulgence. If I’ve already got stuff that’s high quality and does what it needs to, anything beyond that becomes more about trying to find my meaning and purpose in places where I shouldn’t rather than a reasonable appreciation for nice stuff.
The ever-present temptation of sin is to make good things into ultimate things. I like my collection of artisanal Japanese flannel shirts but I know that’s not where my value lies and that shouldn’t be where I’m dependent for happiness. Rather than striving to have the absolute best version of everything, I think that we’re all much better served by having an attitude of thankfulness and appreciation for what we’ve already got, and be wary not to let ourselves be dissatisfied with the Exceptional in a vain pursuit of the Perfect.
Learning to be satisfied with what you’ve already got is more of a deliberate practice than anything else. I have a nice car, for example, but I’m always tempted to think about what I would get when/if I have a boatload of programmer money. Then I catch myself and remember that what I already own is great, is better than I even really need, and that my (usually intentional) dissatisfaction highlights my spiritual deficiency more than a perceived need I’m lacking.
This is a downright dangerous way of thinking – some might even say, un-American because our economy is predicated largely on buying junk that we don’t really need. Perpetual dissatisfaction is the driving force, perhaps, for our entire culture. It also highlights one of the many ways in which Western Civilization is at odds with true Christian values – in this case, those of contentment and thankfulness. But my goal here isn’t to forcibly change the culture; it’s simply to suggest a better way to live, one that isn’t dominated by the cultural blinders that force us to consume out of unhappiness.
So to answer my original question posed in this article’s title: No, I don’t. I can enjoy nice things, but I don’t need the “best” because the “best” isn’t worth what it costs me spiritually to pursue it. When you choose to be thankful and remember everything you already have in Jesus, you effectively disarm the forces that seek to rob you of the joy God wants you to have. And really, what better reason do you need than that?