I have only lately regained my zest for shopping. This for me is a telling observation. Shopping has historically been a conspicuous feature of my existence. For example I prided myself on knowing where to purchase almost anything, especially along the lines of made-to-measure or what the British prefer to call bespoke (that is, strictly custom made). But for the past number of years I have either abandoned or neglected the enterprise except of course for the necessities of life. This of course hardly qualifies as “shopping”. Even if one were not considered an overkeen shopper, it scarcely pushes the point to remark that shopping engenders the vision of an exploit far less tedious than snapping up household provisions. Shopping if it is to have any substance whatsoever must include a degree of superfluity. That element was decidedly lacking in my recent behaviour. I had become abstemious.
The dénouement of my shopping career began when, in response to my undeniable profligacy (a reckless trait which becomes unavoidably onerous as one grows older), I was provoked to unload things painstakingly procured over years. I saw that there was but one way to redeem myself and – more importantly – to unburden myself of the associated debt which comes with intemperate conduct. I entered upon an assiduous campaign to sell everything of value I owned, stuff which was recognizably superfluous. Luckily for me the prosecution of this heady objective met with success; and even though I accommodated the reality of selling for half what I had paid, it was nonetheless adequate compensation for the pleasure I had in owning the bits and pieces. Initially the distinction of having money instead of things was both novel and restorative. I appeased myself to philosophize that I had tasted the privilege of wanton materialism.
You might imagine that my austerity was destined to be short-lived like a weekend evangelical experience. In fact I continue to be surprisingly self-disciplined. Perhaps it is closer to the truth to say that my appetite for things has dried up. Whatever the reason, I haven’t plunged back into my former habits of extravagance. But I have figured out that there are certain things which continue to attract me in spite of my professed amendment. The realization is in every sense an awakening. The landscape of my materialism is characterized by what I distinguish as hallmarks – furnishings, jewelry, automobiles, eyewear, leather and clothing. As I had previously submerged myself in each of these categories, it became a matter of refinement to discern what should survive the metaphorical dusting. Each of these features demanded serious culling. Plurality and excess were no longer desirable. What remained would have to be distinct and singular. The visible factors of my life were undergoing a distillation, an extraction of essential meaning.
Nobody can possibly doubt the significance of certain things. Everything from cars to jewelry, from furnishings to houses, from clothing to accessories, is fraught with intentional import. Our possessions make a statement about us. Since I am unlikely to join the ranks of a monastic society anytime soon I continue to submit to the sometimes contrived and shallow consequence of things. Having done so, it becomes a matter of application to refine the project in search of that particular essence. It helped that in most instances I was starting from the ground up. The one exception is our household furnishings which we had already effectively purified by having downsized from a house to an apartment. That process was driven by the sole objective to retain only the best of what we had; as a result we are perfectly content with our current household possessions which have lately been intensified by spin-off acquisitions selectively plucked from my mother’s things following her own purge. As for the rest – jewelry, automobiles, eyewear, leather and clothing – those objects were the subject of scrutiny.
The first hurdle was to convince myself of the need or desirability of renewed hedonism. An abeyance of some two years helped to assuage concern I had in that regard though not without reservation. I had to hone the method of implementation. I knew that unrestrained sybaritism was not the answer. I needed to adopt a thesis, a theme of some calculation which would capture the distinguishing ingredients of what I liked while at the same time avoiding the appearance of mere hoarding. In this my rumination was not disappointed. I had merely to cast my mind back upon a lifetime of former aspirations. Like bubbles from the seabed those yearnings percolated to the surface of my consciousness. As with most things in life, our models of behaviour and inclination are established from childhood. Fuelled as we once were by the limitless creativity of youth we were capable of imagining things which coincidentally only come within our reach as we age. Yet as I say the foundation was laid long ago. So it required little more than a pensive moment to unfold the layers of time to reveal to myself the scope and quality of my favourite things. That accomplished, I was on my way to fulfilling the dreams one by one.
The poetry of the undertaking is inescapable. As licensed as we may be by age to dwell upon only the finest of things we are similarly compelled to acknowledge the ultimate destiny of ruin and decay. The jewels acquire a patina; the metal and chrome of the car are going to get scratched; things drop and become damaged; everything begins to show its wear and tear. Nonetheless one is obliged to live in a material world so it behooves us to put the best foot forward whenever possible.