When polar bears hunt, they crouch down by a hole in the ice and wait for a seal to pop up. They keep one paw over their nose so that they blend in, because they've got those black noses. They'd blend in perfectly if not for the nose. So the question is, how do they know their noses are black? From looking at other polar bears? Do they see their reflections in the water and think, "I'd be invisible if not for that." That seems like a lot of thinking for a bear. We took the kids one year to the Renaissance Festival in Indiana. You get to be the White Knight. The kids get to ride a horse and joust against the forces of darkness with a helmet on. And the White Knight always wins - the forces of darkness fall onto an old mattress. Someone plays a Lute and plays a song from Medieval Times. The day we went it was maybe 90 degrees out and the heat and humidity index I can't even remember what the radio said. We were next in line and the mare collapsed. Went down in a heap. Ginger was eating Ye Olde Drumstick and she dropped it in the dirt. The kids were crying. I remember this farmer saying he had a gun in his truck. Just like that. From the White Knight to a gun in the truck. They had everyone turn their backs before they put the animal down, but even if you couldn't see you could still hear. How do you get that back? How does that get to be fair?
I've been to Tokyo. They sell little-girl underwear in the vending machines right on the main drag, the Ginza, or whatever. Guys in suits buying used girl panties. How is that okay? That's not okay.
One of the Japanese guys told me a story. This lysine salesman is in a meeting with someone from ConAgra or some other company, I don't know. And the client leans forward and says "I have the same tie as you, only the pattern is reversed." And then he drops dead, face down on the table. Alive and then dead. Brain aneurism. Maybe everyone has a sentence like that, a little time bomb. "I have the same tie as you, only the pattern's reversed." Dead. The last thing they'll ever say.
In earlier, less technically advanced eras, this approach would have been far-fetched. Material goods were inherently difficult to produce, find, and ship. They were rare and precious. They were closely associated with social prestige. Without important material signifiers such as wedding china, family silver, portraits, a coach-house, a trousseau and so forth, you were advertising your lack of substance to your neighbors. If you failed to surround yourself with a thick material barrier, you were inviting social abuse and possible police suspicion. So it made pragmatic sense to cling to heirlooms, renew all major purchases promptly, and visibly keep up with the Joneses. That era is dying. It's not only dying, but the assumptions behind that form of material culture are very dangerous. These objects can no longer protect you from want, from humiliation -- in fact they are *causes* of humiliation, as anyone with a McMansion crammed with Chinese-made goods and an unsellable SUV has now learned at great cost.
Furthermore, many of these objects can damage you personally. The hours you waste stumbling over your piled debris, picking, washing, storing, re-storing, those are hours and spaces that you will never get back in a mortal lifetime. Basically, you have to curate these goods: heat them, cool them, protect them from humidity and vermin. Every moment you devote to them is lost to your children, your friends, your society, yourself.
It's not bad to own fine things that you like. What you need are things that you GENUINELY like. Things that you cherish, that enhance your existence in the world. The rest is dross.
Do not "economize." Please. That is not the point. The economy is clearly insane. Even its champions are terrified by it now. It's melting the North Pole. So "economization" is not your friend. Cheapness can be value-less. Voluntary simplicity is, furthermore, boring. Less can become too much work.
The items that you use incessantly, the items you employ every day, the normal, boring goods that don't seem luxurious or romantic: these are the critical ones. They are truly central. The everyday object is the monarch of all objects. It's in your time most, it's in your space most. It is "where it is at," and it is "what is going on."
It takes a while to get this through your head, because it's the opposite of the legendry of shopping. However: the things that you use every day should be the best-designed things you can get. For instance, you cannot possibly spend too much money on a bed -- (assuming you have a regular bed, which in point of fact I do not). You're spending a third of your lifetime in a bed. Your bed might be sagging, ugly, groaning and infested with dust mites, because you are used to that situation and cannot see it. That calamity might escape your conscious notice. See it. Replace it.
"A fresh attitude starts to happen when we look to see that yesterday was yesterday, and now it is gone; today is today and now it is new. It is like that — every hour, every minute is changing. If we stop observing change, then we stop seeing everything as new." ~ Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche
Everything that was old will be new again. Welcome to the blog, version 3.0.