What is the allure of shopping! You say to me, “What is the answer?” and I say to you, “What is the question?” The question – to put it in a more manageable form – is simply this: “Can humanity escape the retail world?” Astonishingly no matter how old or experienced one is in matters retail there are seemingly no end of contortions surrounding even the most purposeless acquisition. The casual watch manufacturers know only too well of what I speak. Watches – like any other technology, cosmetic or fashion – are undergoing constant alteration seemingly to capture the current popularity of a Hollywood star or whatever preposterous heights or depths the watch manufacturers’ advertisers consider current – whether flying with a Breitling or diving with a Rolex. Really? How gullible are we then? Apparently more so than is good for us!
The thing to keep in mind when venturing into this particular landscape is the old hard and fast rule that you get what you pay for. In an era when on-line shopping has the unmistakeable convenience of Amazon it is easy to be persuaded by the burgeoning enchantment of a new toy. Purchases should never depend upon price – at least not to the point of being the primary root of decision. Naturally I am not recommending that everyone should wear a Rolex – or for that matter, drive a Rolls-Royce – but it borders on rashness to imagine that a cheap product will afford the desirable quality.
Regrettably these so-called “Rules of Thumb” are not completely reliable. Granted the manufacturers sometimes take a different perspective – arguing for example that their particular products are “not made on trees” – but to the imaginative purchaser who initially at least has in mind a more select result this is a withering observation. In case you’re unaccustomed to this bluntness, the undisturbed reality is that things are only stuff. This means that your Steinway and Cartier Santos 100 are creations that sometimes fall apart. As much as you may adore your automobile it nonetheless consists of a collection of pieces which derive their strength from accumulation. The tenacity of those parts is unfortunately at times unpredictable.
In the end the only purity and sustainability in this life is that associated with thought. This is not exactly the material superiority one might wish for. Herein lies the dilemma. It is but a pretence to surpass the fundamentals of necessity; that is, the deterioration and contamination of the material world is inevitable and inescapable. Whether it is watches, automobiles, crystal vases, mahogany furniture or Persian rugs, destruction is assured. What does remain for the time being at least is the pleasure that can be derived from whatever remains current of our favourite things. The corollary caution is that it won’t last. This doesn’t qualify as a revelation but it is certainly a reminder that one shouldn’t become overly optimistic about the elevating character of the so-called substantive elements of life. Nor about their redeeming value. In the meantime we must content ourselves to polish and repair the lingering models of earthly perfection.