When I was very young money was a foreign concept – which I suppose is common. For instance, I thought it was horrific that someone could die of cancer, just because there wasn’t enough money to save them. Or, that so many children died every day because they didn’t have enough food and would eventually die of starvation. It seemed somehow irrational that there was this great divide between the haves and the have nots…and that somehow money, or lack of, was seemingly the all powerful factor.
Grandma was always reminding us that children around the world would love to have the bounty that we enjoyed. As I gazed down at my yucky “taste cooked out of them” once frozen peas… I wondered about that … but I ate them anyways.
Over the years since, I can’t say my thoughts have changed much. Maybe I have thicker skin to the injustice that pervades my adult sensibilities. I’ve had some time to observe what money CAN do, and I have not been very impressed. What I often see is akin to an addiction to heroin or cocaine…in that once you have some, you want more. The more you have, the more you want. Pretty soon you crave it and can’t imagine living without it. If you lose it all, well then your life is over and you perish.
THE SUPPRESSION OF SOUL
“No wonder that actual children become so anesthetized that they are content with the pseudo-stimuli of television, so that by adolescence they have to shoot up to feel. They sit in class without motivation, walk the streets in sullen rage, and seek desperately for sensuous transcendence in sounds, speeds and sex for an alternative script to the soulless and joyless dealing, handling, coping, managing life as a program of practical reason. Unconsciously, they recollect something else, something more, which they would find again, sometimes by suicide.”
[p.190 quoting James Hillman, from ‘Soul of Shamanism‘ by Daniel C. Noel]
It’s a struggle sometimes wrapping my head around the value that money has to our society. As I don’t fall often for its sneaky, pernicious envy inducing abstraction, I am often thought to be strange. Why should I value something that makes one act so thoughtless and greedy?
I’ve lately begun to see it all from a whole different angle though. The thing is, maybe I’m just at peace with myself. I don’t NEED those other things to be happy. It’s not that I want less, but that I already have more.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I come from a comfortable middle-class existence. I’ve never been without food. My family was by no means rich, but we were far from poor. My mother was raised by a woman who lived through the “dirty thirties”, and therefore I have a heightened appreciation, even value I suppose, for what is laid before me. I’ve rarely wanted more than what I was given. I’ve never questioned whether I was loved, or that I was valued. I’ve had a job since I was young, as Mom worked for the local newspaper and so my sister and I stuffed flyers every Tuesday since before I can remember. And….I’ve been told since I was quite young that I was talented & creative and it was always assumed I would one day become an artist – of one sort or another.
Yet I am still grappling with the question of what does wanting less really mean? Am I just lazy and don’t want to work for more? No. I just don’t desire more.
If there is one very important ‘take away” from my 4 bohemian years with Tim at the Lake, it’s that I don’t need that much. I am quite simple in that respect. I don’t need a large space to live, as that would mean I have to clean more. I’m slowly learning how to tune out the nattering of well-meaning folks who feel I’m somehow missing out…but I am certain that it is quite the reverse.
…there are really only two steps to simplifying:
1. Identify what’s most important to you.
2. Eliminate everything else.
[from Simple Living Manifesto: 72 Ideas to Simplify your Life]
To my mind, satisfying that inner lust is as simple as taking the dog for a walk, enjoying a sunset, or being with family and friends. Or solitude, as I value that perhaps more now than ever. Also writing, as I’ve found it to be a joy and a healthy distraction. Perhaps even a means towards future happiness, and contentment within the context of how I make my living. I see that as a far nobler goal.
Simplicity has become a trend of late, and simplifying ones life is not just about throwing out clutter…but un-cluttering your mind as well. Chiseling off the unnecessary, and wasteful, and concentrating ones energy towards lasting pleasures. Not merely happiness, but also a more pervasive sense of well-being. Constructing a state of mind that is deaf to the nattering ninny’s who feel somehow your “missing out” by not owning the biggest house on the block, or driving the more expensive car.
“I do believe in simplicity. It is astonishing as well as sad, how many trivial affairs even the wisest thinks he must attend to in a day; how singular an affair he thinks he must omit. When the mathematician would solve a difficult problem, he first frees the equation of all encumbrances, and reduces it to its simplest terms. So simplify the problem of life, distinguish the necessary and the real. Probe the earth to see where your main roots run. ”
Henry David Thoreau
This road to simplification has not been a straight and narrow path, but rather more like a hike through an unfamiliar forest. Some of the things I valued have been stripped from me, some thrown away out of the sheer encumbrance of carrying them – yet, now looking back I guess we all make our sacrifices, and anything worth having always comes at a price. We strip away the unnecessary and, like a wood-carver, we hone down to the soul of what lies beneath.
Some carvers say all they are doing is exposing what was always there. In that sense, I think simplifying is a similar process. Like weeding the garden, or spring cleaning, we analyze the contents of our lives and chip away the excess bits that weigh us down. And, like a twisted and knotted ball of yarn, we unravel and untangle ourselves from the extraneous and condense our contents to the very core of what we are, and what we truly want ourselves to be.
I see too how, as with any sort of addiction – whether it be money or drugs – if you do not take the time to discover what you really need, you will never get what you want. And so we go hunting and searching, and wallowing in heroin heavens and rich, lavish caviar nights, with lush pavilions situated on artificial glory’s. Popping our lives thru with bits of blue, in order to pull ourselves back.
And AM I NOT ALIVE? you say. AM I NOT FREE? you insist.
And what did it cost? i whisper…for I think all hard times require economy, and thrift. Yet, yet … if just by standing on a grassy meadow makes me happy, or if deep in the woods I find peace … then who I ask, got the better deal?
It still though seems unfair that money can not buy a life back. Money can not cure all things, and mend all wounds. Life is unfair. Terribly unfair, actually …that innocent child I was, who believed in Santa, and thought the world a strange place…she’s learned that life can sometimes be just one mucky swamp. For in the game of survival, the price you paid or the label on the inside of your boots, is not half as important as the quality of their manufacturing.
THAT, my friends, you can acquire at Garage Sales and Thrift Stores.
I’ve learned that it really is in fact the experience that has more value. For wandering through thrift stores, like a meander through a undiscovered forest, gives one a far longer, enduring pleasure.