the romance of thrift

so not quite yet back on the daily blogging routine but getting there…

the latest Chesterton chapter talks about “the romance of thrift,” of course, this appealed to me.
But then again, that was just from reading the chapter title and not knowing exactly where he was going to go with it.

Thrift, being thrifty, economical, also known as poor, stretching a dollar and budget wise is a skill that many of us have come to learn during the entire economic disaster. Not, often, by choice and will but by necessity.

There is a sort of romanticism that goes along with it, especially if you are any kind of artist. Hence the term: starving artist. Being poor and learning how to survive on next to nothing is perceived very differently from being thrifty when you have the capability to spend more. Hence the term: cheap.

How we have come to view poverty, especially in the Western world is unusual. We simultaneously laud the poor for being “more real,” more spiritual, down-to-earth, capable of knowing what is really important in life; and then we also shun the poor, despise thrift as cheap meanness and place a value on extravagance as a means of showing not just our own worth, but as a reflection of how we perceive the worth of others.

The cars we drive, the money we spend on flowers or rings, the places that we live – have become social symbols of status that surpasses economic standing and delves into our beliefs about whether or not someone is a good person.

After all, good people are responsible.

Responsibility means that bills are paid on time. Responsibility has also come to mean that value is placed on the importance of how other people will “read” our appearance.

If you go through and read any of the dating forums or even the ads you will see a litany of complaints that “so-and-so was kind, giving, emotionally generous, driven, intelligent funny but, got dumped because they didn’t have a car or a nice enough place or a job with a big enough salary to provide the kind of rewards that one can provide with that.”

Chesterton makes the point that in spending money choices reflect what is valued in life. He, not so subtly points out that food, drink and vacations are consumed and gone, with nothing left behind but a memory. And often the memory is not that strong either.

Thrift, he says, is perhaps the most romantic expression of our care for another human being that can exist. To be able to see the worth in everything, even beyond its intended use, is a recognition of the totality of its presence. To choose to seek things that will be of use in every aspect of their being rather than a uniquely specialized purpose is indicative of a person who values life.

Like when he said once upon a time we carried pen knives and we could use them to cut our meat, sharpen our pencils and work on our machines. Now, we have pencil sharpeners that can sharpen a pencil and nothing else, knives for meat that would break if used for any other purpose, and specialized tools. We have ceased to live based in a kind of continuous creativity and moved into a kind of stupified simplicity.

True, but it is interesting to watch the rise of the Smartphone. Here is the return to our lives of one tool that has a million purposes. If we all carried a smartphone and a pen knife, I wonder how society might change?

Like with writers, what would happen if more writer’s realized that the tool of writing was words and not a laptop or typewriter? Would that not change the very nature of when you felt like you were able to write? Especially when you also realized that these words are also the tools of speech, society, love and politics. Who could really suffer much of a writer’s block then?

The more possibilities that our tools present for our capacity to creatively solve a problem, the more creative we will be. In all the aspects of our lives.

Thrift is not about saving money or being cheap, it is about recognizing worth.

I am not even going to tell you what I am doing today  but trust me, if it works out I will. If not, I will just bury that experience in my journal and pretend it did not happen.

What is Wrong with the World
by GK Chesterton (as read by Cassandra Tribe)

available in the public domain

Part 3, Chapter 4: The Romance of Thrift

c.2010. Cassandra Tribe. All Rights Reserved.

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About cassandratribe

"There are few artists that can do what Cassandra Tribe does. Whether with her poetry, her videos or her blog, Cassandra examines the truths that most of us can never come close to realizing and shows it for what it is, both beautiful and frightening at the same time. She exposes our inner-most workings like the cross-section of a powerful but flawed machine, our gears and springs, nuts and bolts removed and laid out before us. She is a true artist. Her new video, Requiem for a God, is the latest example of Cassandra's willingness to tear open and examine the very things that make us human. Shooting the film entirely by herself, she also eliminates all the little excuses we come up with to keep us from ourselves and our truth. You see, even when she's not trying to be, Cassandra Tribe is a beacon of truth and humanity in this darkest of worlds." (Michael E. Quigg, The Culture Network, June 2009)
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