It was way back in my early teens - and probably as a consequence of reading Tolkien, plus my high regard for literature, music and architecture - that I recognised prosperity ought to be (is 'intended' to be) used for higher goals than the cyclical search for more material goods (status symbols), distraction and amusement.
For a while, I thought that this view would become general, and it really would happen... that people would wake-up to the possibilities of using the peace and prosperity of The West to pursue whatever might be regarded as higher goals...
I soaked myself in the writings of those who had - even since the 1700s, but mainly in the 1800s and onwards - advocated such a perspective. The basic, simple idea was that we should have 'enough' - then we should pursue the life of the mind. By the 1970s we certainly had enough...
As an atheist; my idea of the highest goal was actually the arts and science; to be some kind of creative artist or scientist seemed like the highest goal. I chose the professional path of science - but it took a long time for me to find a branch of it where I could feel a genuine sense of vocation; and in the mean time I had a second string in trying to excel in one or other of the arts (acting, singing, folk and R&B music; writing scripts, poetry, stories, criticism, philosophy...).
But - to my credit - I never for long (although it did happen in the early 2000s) fell-into the mainstream materialist nonsense that the goal of life ought to be more and more material stuff, more and more travel, more pleasures and distraction... I felt that it was obvious we ought to move beyond this.
I still do - and I continue to be amazed and disgusted that this basic, simple, obvious insight remains so rare - and that so many people are utterly uninterested in understanding the meaning and purpose of life, the idea that they ought to be discovering and pursuing whatever they suppose to be the highest goals.
Even among those who are not merely passive consumers; some people spent literally hours every single day on pursuing their own health/ beauty/ fitness with great effort and straining - and not even five minutes per month seriously and strenuously thinking and working on higher things.
For me - this is an alien world; and it always has been. Hardly anybody I have ever met thinks as I do - but it was a great inspiration to discover some fellow spirits through reading - this formed the staple activity of my mid teen years: communing with such spirits.
It wasn't until I was 19 years old that I saw the whole phenomenon set-out and analysed explicitly by Colin Wilson in his introduction to William Arkle's A Geography of Consciousness and CW's own first book from 1956: The Outsider.