Farewell to Bohemia

Posted: January 3, 2007 in Consumerism, Philosophy

Years ago, I took what I believed then would be a life-long vow of penury. (Probably overstating that. But the idea was that I wouldn’t spend my life grubbing for money, which I regard as a trap.) Such was the deal for the career I wanted, which required that I be able to pick up and go on short notice. Well, developments conspired to deny me that path, so I’ve since become somewhat more mainstream, taking office jobs with a typical 9-to-5 workday. Up until a few years ago, I had never earned more than $20K annually (some years shockingly less), whereas now I’m comfortably above that. Having spent my formative early adulthood not exactly raking in the dollars, I adopted a decidely Bohemian value system and lifestyle. I always had roommates, and when I did finally move out on my own, it was to a studio apartment that pretty much disallowed acquiring things, especially furniture. I lived with my stuff stacked up on the walls around me, which I often had to unpack to use and repack to have space to move.

Well, times change. I recently moved to a new apartment (still can’t afford to buy real estate) and in the process tripled my floor space. The emptiness of the space would not have bothered me except that some family wanted to come visit almost immediately and I had nowhere for them to sit comfortably. So in a callous abandonment of my former value system, I bought some living room furniture: a leather sofa, loveseat, and chair. In the time since I’ve owned them, I admit to thoroughly enjoying them and being pleased with the purchase.

The lingering problem is that I never really aspired to bourgeois values, and as I have learned in my reading over the past few months, the American lifestyle, which is characterized by laziness and overconsumption, is both decadent and unsustainable. However, it’s not as though my head has been turned by the glitzy but empty bling-bling of modern culture. There is no about-face or embrace of conspicuous consumption. My purchase was far less extravagant than many of the options available. But in owning things and having a higher standard of living (with the associated expectations that entails), there is more to protect (the road to fiscal conservatism) and always another acquisition to be made. To be more comfortable on the couch, for instance, I had to get pillows. To unpack my boxes, I had to get shelving. To hang my coat rather than draping it across the back of a chair, I got a coat rack. Etcetera, etcetera. The purchases mounted up, and precisely because I’d refused to acquire things in the past, there were a lot of things to acquire in the present.

So it’s farewell to Bohemia for now, but I’m keeping in mind a time when I will go back there. And I expect that I’ll be happier for it.

  1. grasshopper says:

    Brutus, You could not become a money-monger if your life depended on it. Trust me. Either you love money in and of itself by age three or you eventually discover it as a necessary means for living well enough to think clearly.

    Philosophy and art are luxuries. Societies constantly under siege can not generate anything that might transcend day to day subsistence.

    A few seats, a place to lounge, a good reading lamp all conspiring to provide you with an appealing living room can not possibly steal your inner being or moral compass.

    Insatiable greed and a vainglorious thirst might. But you are so far from that, they can not possibly attack you.

    Let’s look, however, at your over-the-top modesty. You do not even want to tell your blog readers who you are. Under the “About” designation, you reject such notoriety as childish , a “look ma, no hands” braggadocio. No one with such acute sensibility needs to fear corruption by **living room.**

    My guess is a bit of comfort now and then, a small self-indulgence to lighten the day (or night) just might feed your spirit and spur your creativity, no matter how high and gracefully they already fly.

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