Simply by choice
- December 1, 2011
These days, one could be in any big city and it is all the same. One can’t help but react to the growing vulgarity of unabated consumption. More and more pointless choices in mindless things-20 kinds of breads, cereals, jams…. I wonder if I really want to spend my life making such choices that eat into the time that I have for making the real choices? It feels strange that while basic necessities are still not affordable to most, the hoardings, ads, films, in fact most images, are trying to woo us to buy more and more.
In our country of stark dichotomies, the urban affluent’s over-consumption gets nauseous, but then we can’t just blame the rich and famous. We are all guilty of adding to the burden, of being part of the vicious cycle. Most of us push our boundaries of necessities more easily than we did 10 years ago. I remember weighing my reasons to buy an AC enough number of times, before adding one to every room. My conscience pricked more then, and I was more mindful of drawing the line between what I needed and what I wanted. Today, I admit, the line gets pushed a little more easily.
One day, a post-lunch conversation about the maladies of consumption led a friend of mine to prove that he was not an over the top consumerist, as I was accusing him to be. According to him, if he didn’t have a choice he would be fine with whatever available, but if he did, he would exercise it to get the best. If his being privileged could not be used to live ‘comfortably’, then what purpose did it serve? That sounded logical. But then ‘comfortable’ is a relative word that means different things to different people. It led me to think of those whom I have admired, who have chosen to live simply by choice. There is no inner battle, as it is a core value for them. I, too believe that, both as an instinctive and a conscious choice. But there are times when I struggle with the contradictions that are thrown up because of one’s privileges.
I remember once reading, “Adopt a simple life, so that others can simply live.” But then I have also heard people defending their lifestyle by saying, “I am eating from my money and anyway, what I throw is not going to go to someone else’s stomach, so what is all this fuss about?” Aren’t our lives deeply intertwined? Whether it is an economic meltdown in NY, ecological disaster in Japan or a terrorist attack in Mumbai, doesn’t everything affect everyone else? While the economic theory might be a matter of endless debate, I personally believe in what Martin Luther King Jr. said: “All men [and women] are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.” So when we eat only what we need, or use fuel, clothing, water, electricity, whatever… only as much as we need, we are indeed letting others have a little more. In fact, not a little more, but simply ‘have it’, as most don’t have much of what we have. Of course, each one of us must define honestly what we mean by our needs. This will not make the pyramid a cube, but will make its base a little less broad. As long as we are aware of this mutuality and desirous of making the world a little less unequal, I think we can say we are living responsibly.
I am happy for all those experiences that continue to make me uncomfortable every time I push my line of needs. Also, I feel privileged to have many such people in my life, for whom living simply is the only way they chose to live. They are a constant reminder of where I want to go. I have no doubt that less is always more and to live simplyby choice, is the better way to be.