Thursday, May 19, 2011

Lighten the Load

Instead of talking about the gear and goods we have or need to acquire, it might be prudent to consider all we have that we don’t need. From a material perspective, one of the things we need to get rid of is debt. At this point, the long-held belief that having a mortgage on a house is not really debt can be seen as the fantasy that it is. Unsecured debt is worse than secured debt but not by much. Given current circumstances, I would not go into debt for anything if I could at all avoid it. Unimproved farm land, depending on where it is located, might be the exception. Even then I would try not to borrow more than fifty percent of the value. That is, if I couldn’t put at least fifty percent down, I’d pass.

Do you own anything that is high-maintenance? Anything that sucks up your time and resources? Anything that occupies your thoughts even when you are not working on it? No, I mean besides your wife. Is there anything you have that renders too much of your time unproductive? For me, sometimes, it is the internet. In fact there are specific sites that I go to – product reviews, anything with lists -- that just eat my time, and I have no idea where it has gone. I am taking those sites off my bookmarks. That doesn’t mean I will forget about them, but it does mean that I have to think about it a little bit before I go there.

Another monumental time-waster for most of us is television, still. You can waste plenty of time on broadcast television. I have several digital channels. Sometimes I’ll watch a few minutes of one show or another with my wife. What I no longer have is a satellite bill. I saw a few good movies on the satellite dish, but mostly I saw “Mythbusters”, “Dirty Jobs”, and the same stupid network shows that I could get on broadcast for nothing. I’m not suggesting anyone cut their cable or dump the dish but rather consider the value derived from it and exercise some discretion and self-control.

Perhaps you have an old car that’s a money-pit, or some “hobby” or habit. I am tempted to pick on golf – a game I have never played and only watched once because the beer was in the room with a bunch of golfers. Instead of taking up golf, I decided to give up drinking.

Again, I am not suggesting that people give up the things they enjoy or that we all renounce materialism and live like hermits. What I suggest is that we take inventory and look at the reasons we do things or have things relative to the cost of doing and having those things. Evaluate the benefits. If a person really enjoys golf and benefits from it physically and mentally, then he should continue it – while seeking professional help. We all need recreation – that is, a space and an activity in which we can rebuild ourselves. Anything that gets us off the couch and out in the open air is probably good. However I don’t want to spend money just to be trendy. It’s the reason I never have Starbucks unless somebody else is buying. I know how to make good coffee, and I can make it for a couple of weeks and drink all day for the price of a couple of coffee-shop double expressos. Don’t even get me started on all that sugary, foamy crap.

It’s like these cooking shows on television. Do you have to do all that? I eat to live rather live to eat. What’s with all the blending of flavors and presentation? I am either hungry and want to eat, or I am not. Would I rather have porterhouse than flank steak? Of course – all other things being equal. But, for crying out loud, burn the son-of-a-gun, let me eat it, clean up the mess, and let’s get out of the stupid kitchen. There is such a thing as the law of diminishing returns.

And, really, that’s my point. Some of the stuff we do just smacks a little too much of decadence. Not enough of us are educating ourselves, building our skills, improving our health, investing in the means of production, and engaging in actual productive work. I ain’t nobody’s mama, and it is not my job to tell other people what to do. We already have way too much of that from the state. I just want people to think for themselves about value and capital versus consumption.

“…let us lay aside every weight … and run with endurance the race that is set before us.” – Hebrews 12:1

1 comment:

  1. And by the way, one of the classic and accessible books on quality is Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I lost or gave away my copy in the early '80's. Having read through it two or three times, I never replaced it, but it is educational.