…The ideal of connection is radically different from the ideal of of simply getting whatever you happen to want, perhaps the standard view among moderns since Hobbes. In the picture we’ve been discussing… humans are valuers who seek to connect with the things they ought to desire. The world’s value does not simply depend on our whims, but is something we discover. We remind ourselves to keep our eye on the ball, not letting our desires become detached from the things that really matter. And we educate and cultivate ourselves, in part so that we may better appreciate the worth of things, enriching our lives in the process. In short, the ideal of connection counsels us to seek a life of appreciative engagement with value: to be an ‘appreciator,’ as we might call it.
In the Hobbesian view, reflected in mainstream economics, we are brute desirers who wish simply to get our fill. Or at least to keep the pangs of hunger at bay – Homo gastropodus, a stomach with legs. Like clever dogs chasing ever more kibble, we treat our desires as simply a given, not something to be scrutinized, reflected upon, and improved. The Hobbesian sees the world as something to be used and consumed, its value depending wholly on the individual’s whims. You don’t connect with other people; you contract. Or, if you’re a demented genetic designer like Blade Runner’s Sebastian, you synthesize. Appreciation doesn’t enter into it; you just want. The familiar term for this beast is ‘consumer.’
I first began distinguishing consumers from appreciators in my years at a vacation spot, where I noticed a divide in the way tourists approached the place. Many, the appreciators, arrived with an open mind, adapted themselves to where they were, and enjoyed the place for what it was. Others, the consumers – ‘touroids’ was the local term – seemed to regard the locale simply as something to amuse or entertain them. “What, no miniature golf?” “Why can’t I get a decent cappuccino around here?” “I’m bored, there’s nothing to do here.” Never mind that they were in one of the most beautiful locations on the planet. Family burial plots were routinely trampled in search of a quaint photograph, “no trespassing” signs notwithstanding. To see what I mean, observe some vacationers … as they extract souvenir photos from Buddhist monks taking their daily walk.
Few things, I suspect, can more thoroughly drain life of meaning, dignity, or joy than having this sort of outlook. It is better to be an appreciator than a consumer.
– Chapter 7: Getting Outside Oneself: Virtue and Meaning