Wednesday, January 4, 2012

luxury items

Luxuries are those things which are not necessary, but are in some way pleasing. And yet the definition of a luxury seems to shape-shift according to circumstances.

This morning, for example, there is a bitter cold in the air. Returning from driving my son to school, it was a positive luxury to get back into the house and belly up to the wood stove which was putting out a wondrous heat. Standing beside it, I could feel both the cold and the body tension associated with that cold dissipate. What a luxury. Not something I 'deserved' or couldn't live without ... but nevertheless, a yummy to which I had given scant notice in warmer times. This morning I was able to think, "Well, I did one useful thing in this lifetime ... I built the chimney and installed the wood stove."

Across the street in front of the house, a street lamp has gone out. I noticed it last night. Nighttime, of course, consists of darkness, but I had gotten used to the street lamp's exercise in holding back the night. Today I will call the department of public works and report the outage. I am used to the light and besides, "what the hell do I pay taxes for?"

It's nice, in one sense, to take an inventory of what I've got and what I imagine I 'deserve' and compare it with what I actually need. The assumptions of the past are challenged in hard economic times, it's true, but even without the downward spiral of the social world, what are the assumptions that I make? Do my children 'deserve' food and shelter? Do I 'deserve' a computer and time to play on it? Do I 'need' a car and a wood stove? Does the world 'owe' me anything?

I'm not trying to go all simplistic with simplicities (look Ma, I'm Thoreau!) but only suggesting that sniffing the stuff -- some of it luxurious -- that shapes my world and which I largely ignore is probably a nice idea from time to time.

What is not a luxury?

On the other hand, what is?

And if there is neither luxury nor lack of luxury, is it really necessary to hold my luxuries dear?

If so, why? If not, why not?

Please use a No. 2 pencil.

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