Those of you who are afficianados of the 1960′s era Star Trek series (and if you’re not, you should be — it’s cheesey and profound at the same time) may recognize the title of this article from an episode, but it’s such a striking sentence that it’s worth re-using.
We are a practical people.
Well, not all of us, but a significant chunk is trying to make do on the money we earn, and in today’s society, many of us work harder for less.
So, we find ways to save.
And saving money is a good thing — buying less, making more, re-using, recycling, finding treasure in another man’s trash, saying no to impulse buying, gardening — it’s all good.
But in the process of all this efficient, practical living, sometimes we lose something just as important, but easy to overlook because it’s not obvious — beauty, and beautiful things.
Every morning, I make tea in a hand painted, Polish tea pot, signed by the artist and a bit more expensive than an old coffee carafe I could pick up at any second hand store. Both are suitable for making tea. There is absolutely no reason I needed the artisan’s version, but I wanted it.
I’m Polish, you see.
Okay, so that’s not a good excuse, but I really don’t need an excuse — and neither do you — to save up for something beautiful that, every time I use it, adds an element of joy to the day’s duties. And not only that, but a real person, an artist — not a shareholder in boxstore stocks — received the money for their unique skills and abilities.
(As the wife of an artist, I can assure you that artists don’t like to starve any more than the rest of us, and in order to continue producing beautiful things, they need people to buy them.)
We live in a beautiful world, but in the process of surviving the ugliness thrown at us by greed, deception, dishonesty, avarice, selfishness, powerlust, and pride, we slip so snugly into survival mode that we forget to look around us and rejoice in what we see and hear and smell and taste — new leaves emerging, bees hovering around blossoms, the mew of a newly born kitten, the gentle kiss of morning’s breeze brushing across our cheeks.
This is beauty — and this particular beauty if free. It just asks that we notice it.
But the other beauty, the kind that we buy, is worth seeking out and finding as well. As I write this, I am wearing a handknit (by my hands) alpaca sweater created from yarn spun by an artisan and purchased for a price considerably more than what the boxstores charge, only they don’t sell items of this quality. When I amortize the cost of the materials out over how many times I’ve worn this sweater, it comes to about a dollar a time. I wear this sweater a lot.
Just because you’re ordinary and maybe a little poor (although most of us aren’t so poor that we worry about the number of meals we’ll eat today) doesn’t mean that you can’t have luxurious things. Just save up for them.
Forego the trashy impulse buys (they yell at you as soon as you walk into any store) and set your sights on the thing of beauty that you covet — exotic yarn, a teapot like mine, a brass version of Goats and Tigers, a painting, a truly superb chocolate — you know what it is. Stop feeling guilty about wanting it and see about how you can save up for it. And then, after you purchase it, use it with the joy and respect that it deserves — because it is a thing of beauty, created by an artist who knows how to interpret beauty into a material item.
We are creatures of both flesh and spirit, but often, in the effort to subvert the flesh, we focus on sheer practicality, assuring ourselves that this is the route to higher consciousness. It isn’t. It is the route to a barren, bleak existence — both in our flesh and in our spirit.
There is, in truth, much beauty. Seek out the one, and you will find the other.