I have been reading a book by Alexandra Stoddard called "Graceful Living in a Modern World". Many of her thoughts are very nice, she talks about slowing down, making time for ourselves, appreciating that we are overworked and we need down time to be truly productive. However, I am also troubled. This seems to be a book for those people who have "too much" but don't really want to divest themselves of it. Though out the book she makes reference to all of her beautiful things. The vase from Italy, the pink boots she bought in the great "little shop" in Paris. So, this book makes me think of two things:
1. Conspicuous Consumption and obtaining things to be similar to the "Jones'"; and
2. The need for Beauty
OK, so these things seem rather unconnected... but I think not.
Conspicuous consumption and the need to keep up. This is hard. I find myself looking at other people’s possessions and saying to myself... oh I want that shelf, or that cabinet, or that painting. Oh, I need to have a car, a nicer house, a better wardrobe. But, do I really?
What is it that I need? I often say I need this, when in fact I really can do quite well without it. When I was in Taiwan I bought a hand mixer... because I did not have one. I probably only used it a half dozen times. Now, I can't use it because the electric current is different here. I also do not own a microwave. It would be nice, but frankly, I think we survive quite well without it. It takes more planning, we need to start the kids’ food earlier, we need to plan in advance what we will eat for dinner and take it out to thaw.
I would LIKE, some wall hangings, a cabinet to hide the TV (out of site, out of mind???), I would like painted walls, and I would like a mixer/food processor so I can prepare more foods. I would like to have a better mix of clothing. None of these things are required in my life. But, perhaps they would make my life a bit better, easier, and more productive. So, in another post, later, I am going to talk about how I plan to reconcile these desires with actual needs. It basically involves my use of the "Your Money or Your Life" principles of how much of my life energy will it takes to obtain them and then making the decision if it is worth it.
So, this is a perfect segue into my next thought- Beauty (oh btw, I did not know how to spell segue for the longest time, I always thought it was spelled SEGWAY, so don't even ask me what I was thinking if I read the word... cause I knew what it meant...but I digress.)
I don't think that Simplification means a lack of Beauty. I need to do some more thought and research on this, but I wonder if those who try to follow the principles don't burn out and go back to conspicuous consumption because they forget to include beautiful things in their life. Alexandra Stoddard does often talk, in her book, about appreciating beautiful things, and that it is very important in having a well balanced life. Beautiful things may cost more, so you may need to plan for that, but they don't always have too. Frankly, Jeff and I saw some great- I mean great- artwork at our local Salvation Army store... for less than 100 US for a large art piece. Apparently an art gallery went out of business and donated all of their works. I want to save a few dollars this month and get some art.
This reminds me of an exercise I did once in Jr High Drama Class. Carol Scofield was our teacher. Everyone in the class was given a "job"... some were doctors, some were teachers, some were mechanics and some were artists. We were all then "stranded" on a desert island and we had to selectively choose who to send off the island. The result of the exercise is that in most cases, people sent the artists, teachers, writers off the island early (was this an early version of the reality TV show survivor???). Later in the exercise, information was brought into play about how we were fighting, had no culture, no one to teach the following generations. At the end, the result is that we were supposed to think that in a balanced society, you need all of these people, all of these types of endeavors/professions/parts of culture... in order to have a balanced society.
Obviously the lesson must have struck a cord with me if I can remember it some 23 years later. I think that this is true for our lives as well. We have to have some beautiful things to look at, to read, to hear, and to surround ourselves in beauty. This is a NEED. My goal for this weekend is to bring a thing of beauty into my house, recognize it as a need and account for it.
For an update on the family:
This week has been anything but simple. Kristy flew to Shanghai for 3 days. Ate too much, junk food and drank too much wine (easier to do on an expense account). Jeff flew to Bangkok overnight for 2 days of work. Declan has started preschool 3 days a week and Kiera has a cold. This weekend is going to involve our big monthly shopping trip and perhaps a day at the park on Sunday for some much needed family time.
I will post some things of beauty next time.