Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University, performed a 20-year old study on the level of happiness and satisfaction that material possessions provide. The conclusion: very little.
You may wonder how this is possible, because that brand new bow or rifle that you just bought are shooting your levels of happiness through the roof. Especially, as you anticipate its flawless function and wonderfully intended use in the upcoming season. However, would you be as satisfied with your purchase if your expected hunting opportunity suddenly vanished? Would that rifle or bow mean much to you if you knew you were never going to hunt again? If you're like most human beings, it probably wouldn't. It's not the actual object that makes you happy, it's the anticipated experience that you'll have with that rifle or bow that's really driving your happiness.
"We are the sum total of our experiences."
Dr. Gilovich found that what really drives lasting and fulling happiness are actual experiences, not things. He states, "Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods... You can really like your material stuff... but nonetheless they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences" (Jay Cassano, The Science Of
Why You Should Spend Your Money On Experiences, Not Things). Not what we have, but what we experience makes us who we are.
Ultimately, those experiences are what make you happy.
So, you're probably wondering, what does this have to do with hunting? Well, everything. As we all know, hunting is a fulfilling experience. It becomes a part of us and always remains with us. Each hunt creates more emotions, unique feelings and lasting memories that sum up to be who we are as individual hunters. Whether you're out in the field with your right-hand man, showing your daughter or son the ropes and watching them get their very first, roughing it with your father or grandfather, or just running solo, those experiences are what drive you. Ultimately, those experiences are what make you happy.
What's important about this is experiences are never the same, they are always unique. They can't be truly compared, only shared. Some may brag about what they've experienced, but that can never degrade what you've experienced because it's uniquely yours. With any material object, whether it's hunting related or not, human nature is always driving us to look for the next best thing or whatever our neighbor just bought. Sadly, those very same things become less valuable and meaningful to us very quickly, as the next best thing is always what we "don't have".
The Paradox of Possessions simply shows us that material things just can't keep up with what nature intended for us. That's why hunting is so satisfying. It's an experience. A unique and unrepeatable experience that we enjoy in some way or another every time we go out, and will ultimately be a part of us forever.