Your friend recently passed away. The guilt?
Learning How To Die In The Anthropocene Buy Online
Shutterstock / Wladimir Werba
My friend, agent and co-author Monica Nicodemus calls me. She’s at long last having her first baby, which, if everything proceeds according to plan, will make us a family of four. Monica tells me how excited she is to receive health insurance. She’s fine with it, but when she heads to the clinic to get fitted for her stroller, she wants to bring along a piece of advice that might sound like, to my untrained ear, a trivial issue.
“I was thinking about stopping eating fish. It’s something I could do to help save the environment,” she says. This is not the kind of advice I would give to someone who wants to reduce her carbon footprint. And yet, I can tell that she’s meant her words with deep meaning.
I recently signed up for health insurance through my public employment, because my company has cut back on employees. Initially, I was surprised to find that my premiums didn’t seem so high. Now, however, I’m trying to find a way to lessen my dependence on this pool of people to buy insurance for me. I start searching on Amazon, because I want to pay for a great deal with a credit card that I know not only won’t charge me a bunch of fees, but will also go in the background when it is checked on my monthly statement to make sure I’m not spending something that’s wrong.
I’m already saving money for a home purchase and a car loan, and I want to use my insurance dollars as a signifier of my frugality. After that, it becomes easy to skip having health insurance entirely, because it’s really not an expense at all; and if I do my job, I’ll get high premiums for a small benefit. In our world of mass consumption, it’s much easier to go cold turkey.
One of the trips that I made this summer was to Bolivia, and I was inspired by how the locals have survived on the cheap. Of course, I recognize that certain costs are relative and my life is pretty good. But I’ve started to see how people manage to put food on the table while living from check to check and celebrate living the way they do.
Buying in Bulk
We live in an age of abundance, and if we had any sense of self-worth at all, we’d spend less, not more. Yet, to those of us who consume products that are not essential or essential for our well-being, getting our needs met is something to be valued. I’m not sure that the old adage is true: There is no such thing as a free lunch. If we want our hair to look good, it costs money; if we want good health care, it costs money; if we want to drive a nice car, we’re going to have to spend some money (and a lot of other nice things, too).
To seek satisfaction from these things is to disregard the things that we are not doing to live better. In other words, saving money is not enough—our happiness depends on doing things that bring us joy.
From an American perspective, saving some money is enough—it’s a substitute for happiness. However, to gain relief from what we couldn’t afford before, we now eat at certain restaurants or buy certain products or live in certain communities. We use our newfound security to extend the enjoyment that we enjoyed before.
Humans used to live more or less for our own sustenance, which we paid for through local markets and seasonal harvesting. But now, the food that we eat comes from supermarkets. Our clothes come from factories. Our homes come from mass production, which we fill with things that we want (or need), while neglecting the things that we need (or need).
According to some studies, we want more, but don’t want the work that has to go with it. As we’ve moved into a hyper-consumerist era, however, many of us don’t realize what we want—nor are we willing to work for it—so we buy whatever tastes good. From a consumerist standpoint, that’s the greatest lesson: To seek satisfaction from these things is to disregard the things that we are not doing to live better.
There’s one guy I’ve been dating for a while. His name is Zawadi. Zawadi loves to shop, and we go together on numerous trips shopping for things he likes and to see things he didn’t think he needed. We never feel that he’s selfish, because he works hard at his job and puts some money aside