Redefining luxury, Druid style

What does luxury mean? We’re back to ideas that are sold to us from the outside, because it’s so easy to respond to that question with a vision of something that costs a fortune. The push towards ever greater consumerism is often one that asks us to turn old luxuries into things we consider essential, and then to hanker after even bigger, more expensive things.

For the sake of the planet, luxury needs to be a sustainable idea. I don’t think that’s quite as nuts as it sounds either. I do not believe that we’re going to save the world with a hair shirt mindset. Most people are not prepared to suffer for their own gain, much less anyone else’s, and we’re up against all those adverts that keep telling us that we should never experience a moment’s discomfort or inconvenience. Hair shirts are not going to enlist anyone. Not even me. But what if we could de-comodify the idea of luxury? What if we could make luxury, or the experience of the luxurious, that bit more affordable and sustainable? That would shrink a few carbon footprints.

You can’t indulge when you’re on the run. If you’re doing the ‘hectic lifestyle’ routine, grabbing instant food whilst running like a headless chicken from one assignment to the next, you can’t enjoy anything. So the luxury that makes all others possible, is slowing down. And often, slowing down is pretty cheap. A few hours off work will give you that.

A lie in is not expensive, but what is more luxurious than being free to sleep until you wake naturally, and then being leisurely about getting up? You don’t have to wallow in the duvet all day to feel the benefit. An extra hour, stolen from the hectic schedule, is a most lovely bit of self indulgence. Or how about having the time, just occasionally, to soak in a bathtub, to indulge in good massage or leisurely lovemaking? Time is the most precious thing we have, so using that time in pleasing, indulgent ways can create a feeling of luxury at little cost. And equally, no matter how much cash we spend, if we don’t give ourselves time to enjoy the indulgence, we don’t get much out of it. What good a vastly expensive cruise if you’re on the mobile talking to the office all the time?

One of the big mistakes we make, is finding a good thing and then indulging all the time so that the treat becomes normal and all sense of reward is lost. Some such treats become addictive and destructive when continually ‘indulged’. Alcohol for one. Luscious food, for another. Eat ice cream every day, and you’ll barely even notice it. Strawberries all year round are not as good as strawberries that only come fresh from the garden for a few glorious weeks. Preciousness and rareness often equate, but if we make something a regular feature, we deprive ourselves of the sense of a treat. Over exposure to anything can just de-sensitise us, so that we cease to appreciate, or even notice.

I used to sit out overnight to watch the mid summer sunrise. It’s a good opportunity to break with the normal routine. A mattress never feels so magical as it does after a night on a hill. A duvet becomes a gift of the gods then. A roof is a profound blessing. Contrast is good. Contrast allows us to see the real value of things. The more we wrap ourselves in ease, the less we get to enjoy what is good. The less able we become to notice the good in our lives. Coming in after working in the snow, hot soup is sublime.

I’ve stripped a lot of the twenty first century ‘luxury essentials’ out of my life in the last year – more from necessity than spiritual devotion, but it’s been good for me. Happiness is a sunny day when I can dry laundry, and just sit outside and enjoying being alive for a while, knowing that the batteries are charging. Happiness is having the time to soak in lots of hot water. It’s watching grebes dive outside the boat, and sleeping until 8 in the morning. Happiness is not having to cycle in the pouring rain, and happiness is also knowing that, if needs be, I am fit, well and strong enough to do that cycle ride in whatever conditions I get. Going to the pub for internet, electricity and cheesy chips is the pinnacle of self indulgence.

I am bloody determined that as my life swings back towards more conventional options, I am not going to forget these perceptions. The more I am able to enjoy the small things, the easier it is to be happy. The smaller my luxuries, the smaller my impact upon the planet. The closer I get to only having what is needful, the more I experience the indulgent quality of having more than is essential. And the more I see how few things really are essential after all.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

3 responses to “Redefining luxury, Druid style

  • greycatsidhe

    Well put. What you say about time, or slowing down to enjoy it, being “the luxury that makes all others possible” rings very true to me. Suddenly I’m on summer vacation and I have so much leisure time. Going outside to sit at my patio is such a treat knowing I have very little to worry about. When work starts up again, I try to set aside bits of time for myself and my husband.

    In addition to time and living in the moment, luxury, for me, has become experiences. I much prefer spending my hard-earned money on the experience of going to a musical than buying the latest gadget, for example. Luxury has also come to mean well-made products by artisans. If I feel I need a mug, I’ll save up a little extra to support a local potter. I’ll have an original piece of art, be supporting the local economy, and it’s arguably much better than getting a mass produced mug from some place like Walmart. Going along with experiences, such interactions often mean I form a bond with the artisan. It’s a wonderful way to shop!

  • Alfred Norman

    After reading this post i know about Redefining luxury, Druid style. Luxury goods are products and services that are not considered necessary and are related with prosperity. Those are use luxury anyone can identify easily. Thanks for you posting

  • Jennifer Tavernier

    OOH Good ONE!
    I Too, out of necessity, have not missed the (keeping up with the Joneses) luxuries lately. I have been actually been weeding them out -(economy paring). I am actually enjoying this. simpler!
    It is very interesting to even take a look at what one considers luxuries, especially when many of my necessities are luxuries now – the ability to pay bills ontime, my internat connection (basic, but needful for work) my cat’s food, and a few food things for me, (since I am pretty much a vegetarian, and love to mad scientist in the kitchen, with basics.)
    My real luxuries are being able to procure needed writing and art supplies, research stuff, and the ability to read and learn. And it is fun to have a pretty self-sustaining way, from my hands I can create (food, bread, grow things, play music, read, learn and apply, teach, etc.) Or enhance other’s survival if we ever have a cataclysm. I am good in a leadership position, and have no fear of handling/dealing with people (or organizational skills).. Or coming up with sane solutions that handle problems, not dither dither dither. Cut to the bone.
    Time is a luxury, most surely, as I very rarely have any uninterrupted time. (20 hour days/tenants) That and being able to create – start a personal project, and see it through, art/writing/or music-wise. Now writing and music, – that is pure joy but also luxuries at the moment. Art that is useful (goes along with something, for whatever purpose, even sheer must do it) is awesome. I do find it funny though, that I am purely Capricorn, in my other projects (fibre)- Is It Useful? (I am not a cutesy person, doing kleenex box covers, flowers, etc).
    But time for “just me”. Hmm – that is one luxury that I demand. It is a necessity, though, and everything I am doing often, is geared toward the enjoyment of, when a job is well and completely done.

    So it is a great question, and will be a fun one, to look at, what do I consider luxuries, when my ‘luxuries’ are necessities? They aren’t gizmos, or even tangible, in most cases. But from the non-tangible, everything springs, so there is an abundance of what I consider important as fuel. Quite a good bloggy question here! LOL! And honestly deserves some real thought! Thank you!

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