Being here in this time and place could best be described as a state of minimalism. The work is not too hard, the quest for survival is never felt too deeply. The struggle could be much greater, but it would seem forced and in authentic. Creating situations of self-harm in order to exist in solidarity with the oppressed is a teenage thing to do. Who’s to say that I didn’t earn this–that I’ve spent a million lifetimes being oppressed, working toward a life of privilege where I can sit and reflect on my existence? Obviously, an uncareful reading of such an idea would leave me open to oppressing some others a little more, and having my words taken by those who live in privilege to continue their oppression.
One thing that living in privilege has provided me is a clear sense on no longer needing to affirm and validate myself by way of consuming goods. A pair of clothes from a discount store is here to last me until they have been so utterly worn through that the money spent repairing them is more than the money spent to buy new clothes. A smartphone is kept for years, as is a computer. Gadgets become obselete and are no longer purchased. I don’t eat at every trendy eatery that opens. I still buy too many books, but I end up giving most of them away as gifts.
There is no longer an acute sense of needing to connect a piece of me to some thing or stuff out there. Buying a new motorcycle will not make me happy in orders of magnitude far above and beyond the financial burden and safety risk of the bike. Most activities, like vacations or the occasional dining out experience seem to fall into this category of return on investment–a thousand dollar vacation buys about a thousand dollars’ worth of happiness.
Books are usually the exception–at least the ones that end up being good ones. A fifteen dollar good book will return hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars’ worth of happiness. Perhaps stuff for my son can be considered an exception right now–the utter joy he derives from some silly plastic parts and the box they came in is multiplied out to my heart in the form of tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of happiness. Sure, why not? Buy him a ten dollar toy that he shrieks over for a few months, and seeing him happy makes me incredibly happy.
Likewise, I am trying to get to some level of maturity where I, too, become the kind of investment that sees a yield far above and beyond the initial investment. This is why I left my old career–I was worth exactly what they were paying me, sometimes a little more, sometimes less, but I was never able in any average office environment to give people so much more of me than they had paid for. I’m not sure if I would have wanted to, or if such altruism was ever really welcome when it was tentatively explored. People in offices like the coziness of a tit-for-tat system, you always get what you pay for and no more or no less. If you bring cupcakes to work for someone, you are expecting them to do something really wonderful for you, or they already have. You aren’t just baking and bringing sweet baked goods to be nice.
Even when I do find myself going on slight binges of buying stuff as if I were wealthy, I end up using so very little of the things that I buy. When I am blessed with an abundance of free time, I don’t want to begin a new craft or hobby. I don’t want to make beer or take up a new musical instrument, or something else. I feel like the time that I have to myself is sacred time, not in the sense of being time reserved just for God, but sacred like I should be careful not to pack a bunch of stuff back into my head and my schedule so that I am racing around trying to complete projects and fulfill obligations to people while the back of my mind is screaming for a few minutes’ worth of time to just read, write and reflect on what it means to be here in this time and place and body.
Admittedly, I waste too much of this time doing things that I don’t care to mention, or simply writing words that probably are of little value for future use. But, sometimes, it takes a day or so to just be cleared of everything that had been rolling around in my head, and also to try to get back at what some of the most fundamental ideas are that I want to explore.