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Daffodils and Conspicuous Consumption

March 15, 2010

“Be Content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” – Lao Tzu

It’s funny, the things you learn in University and then the way it all connects in my head. I’m gonna try to make sense here, please bear with me – there will be a point to it, I promise!
So, in school we learned this funny term “Conspicuous Consumption” – don’t you just love that? For some reason, I was quite taken with it. If you’re interested, here’s the definition:

The short version:

lavish or wasteful spending thought to enhance social prestige

Source: The on-line Merriam-Webster dictionary.

The longer, more-meat-to-it, version:

A pattern of behaviour, initially observed by Thorstein Veiblen, that began in the nineteenth century as a result of increased incomes and leisure time along with the growth of marketing. “Wasted” consumption (that which exceeds what is strictly necessary for life) began to be used by members of different classes in a way that was “conspicuous”-obvious, noticeable, visible- in order to signal or symbolize social distinction.

Source: O’Brien and Szeman, Popular Culture: A User’s Guide (Thomson, 2009) 2nd Ed.

So, naturally, when funds were low in February thanks to the purchase of a new mattress set, and we couldn’t really spend anything extra on anything, I decided that February was No Conspicuous Consumption Month. Mind you, this was all in my head, I didn’t even think to tell Ben about this, as he probably just would have given me a blank stare – and really, who could blame him? But the thing is, is made not spending kind of fun for me. I’d see something in the store and rather than just thinking we didn’t have the money, I’d tell myself: “Oh, I can’t…It’s No Conspicuous Consumption Month!”. Why do I find this fun? I don’t know…

Anyway, this got me thinking. I think it is not a bad idea to do this once a year. Because it makes me realize how often I spend beyond what I really need. It also forces me to look at what I already have and make the most of it. Like actually using the craft supplies I already have and making something with that rather than buying new stuff because it strikes my fancy in the store.

Now, mind you that in school I was also taught that conspicuous consumption isn’t a bad thing. It drives our economy for one thing. And I’m sure there are lots of other reasons. I myself am quite the fan of conspicuous consumption (okay, I will stop saying it now).

And so today, I went to the greenhouse near my house in search of some visible signs of spring. Daffodils usually do the trick for me. When I inquired about the daffodils they had on display, the sweet lady informed me that she wasn’t about to sell them to me, as they were past their prime. “But you can take them, you know, if you just want to brighten your day…” Wow, did it ever brighten my day! I love flowers, they make my heart sing. And having such simple tokens of beauty around makes me feel at peace and it makes me feel like “nothing is lacking” and that the whole world belongs to me – to quote and paraphrase mr. Lao Tzu.

When I got home, I wrapped the pots in some newspaper, which I had seen in a picture on a blog somewhere – I can’t remember where. I liked the look.

And also, I purchased a single flower in a small vase as a present for a co-worker who was working on her birthday today:

Such beauty in simplicity

So, what I am trying to say is that not spending on things that were not necessities for a month made me that much more appreciative this month for the small luxuries in life.

I also came up with a small list of other things that I could enjoy more consciously, really enjoy them for all they are worth. Because I tend to take them for granted, but in reality they are luxuries:

– a cup of Tazo tea (a slightly more expensive brand of tea, sold at Starbucks)
– the Starbucks coffee I enjoy almost daily
– the Coco Mademoiselle I spray on my wrists
– my new mattress
– my new pillow
– my Benefit make-up

Maybe you can think of a few things of your own?


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