Tuesday, March 08, 2005

What Is Luxury?

The other day, my husband told me that he'd turned off the heat because the power bill had been higher than he'd prefer. To him, wandering around in a t-shirt and occasional sweatshirt, heat is a luxury. To me, in my turtleneck, sweatshirt, jacket, leggings, pants and lap blanket, it is not.

Okay, before you reach for the mouse, let me assure you this is not a rant against my husband. I was planning to rant to him personally, but I was in the middle of something that gave me time to think. What I came up with was this stray thought.

Bear with me. I don't normally give assignments, but I think this will be an interesting one.

Take a pen and paper, or computer notepad, and jot down the things you can't live without. And I'm not talking emotional, be materialistic please.

(Pause while you all do your assignment....)

Okay, pencils down :).

Now, how many of those lists contain three items? What? None?

The only thing you need is food, air and water. Anything else is a luxury.

Now those writers reading this will say: a pencil and paper must be on the list.

The readers: a light and a book.

The game players: a Game Boy or game board (depending on generation ;))

But stop for a moment. Do we really need anything but food, air, shelter and water? Need?

Assume you are on a desert island with a decent size group of people. The grace of God, or the local television producer, has provided basic food staples and potable water while air is self-evident--the basic necessities.

The writers want to write but don't have paper; the readers want to read but don't have books; the game players want to game but have no boards or game machines.

The writers can tell their stories to a captive audience; the readers can have tales told to them in the author's own voice and intonation; the game players can play word games and build scenarios with their imaginations (/me slaps the hand of the game player who reaches for a stick and rock to form a map).

Sure, would our lives be different stripped down to the bare essentials? Absolutely. If you look at the list produced by your significant other or your children, will many of the elements be different? Of course. But none of that changes the common thread that crosses all of us and brings us together. Though different, even in the direst circumstances, those differences would aid and support each other...if we only gave them the chance.

So, going back to the main question: what is luxury? Practically everything. Though I've never been in the depths of poverty, I can imagine human food seems a luxury when what's available is dog food or even rats. When you need a blanket to get warm, would you shy away because of filth, or because you had to share? If forced to tell your stories rather than write them, would you stay silent?

I guess this is a reflection piece, asking all of us to take a moment and count our blessings while at the same time to recognize our luxuries. If money gets tight, as it has for so many of us, there's a lot of space between where we are now (a grouping based purely on the fact that you're reading a blog on a computer ;)) and food, air and water.