Frugality is heresy in a world where the mall is the new cathedral

I did something unusual last week – I filled the car to the brim with diesel.

had just been paid for my latest doodle and told me to hell with it, I’m going insane and filling up the car. I did just that and when the tank stopped taking up, I put the nozzle back where I had it and headed to the store to pay for the precious liquid.

I live in a relatively crime free area that requires the lightest of security measures. I often don’t bother to take the keys out of the car when I go shopping.

So, after filling up, I was halfway across the forecourt, debit card in hand, when I thought better of leaving my venerable vehicle and went back to get the keys. The full tank had probably doubled in value.

I went into the shop and seeing that I was giving the car a load of diesel I decided to treat myself to a Cadbury’s Twirl, my guilty pleasure of choice. I presented the debit card to pay off my debt and the thing almost melted with shock.

You’d think the car would take care of itself after such an investment, but two days later it repaid my generosity by losing part of its exhaust.

Anyhow, I am telling this story simply as an illustration of the subtle changes taking place all around us as we become more accustomed to living in leaner times.

Many things that we used to do without thinking now need to be considered and thought through.

Accustoming to this new dispensation becomes easier for the current consort as we learn to adjust our habits and expectations to the reality of the empty nest.

The shopping trolley was replaced by a shopping basket loosely filled with half-sizes of everything – a half-cut pan, half a pound of butter, a pint of milk and boringly sad digestive biscuits.

In the context of this new reality, it is easier to deal with change and introduce a new regime. We don’t have to annoy people by turning off the lights, turning down the thermostat, or closing doors and windows. We’ve only got niggles to do, and after 25 years of marital entanglement we’re perfectly capable of that.

As we move from the domestic to the global, I think we are in for a period of domestic and international nagging as we try to come to terms with the end of the unrestricted consumption era.

From now on, everything we do needs more thought. Last-minute decisions and shopping are a thing of the past when we realize that flying to Marbella for the weekend is no cheaper than spending a few days in Miltown Malbay by bus.

The consumptive philosophy that tells us, “If it’s available, take it, and if you can get it, display it,” belongs to a time of prodigality that’s etched into the history books.

I sometimes listen to music while writing. I don’t do this all the time as it can disrupt my train of thought if I’m thinking and my thoughts follow a pattern.

However, when I choose to fill the environment with sound, I like listening to Gregorian chant. Its ethereal and ancient sound transports me to another place and I like to think that it pierces the veil between here and the afterlife. From the somber rumble of De Profundis too angelic Gloria in Excelsisit reaches into the depths of what we are and extends to the heights of what we can be.

It’s beautiful because it’s simple, it’s rich because it’s sparse, its ability to bring you to the brink of ignorance is based on the belief that it knows. It’s a wonderful example of less being more.

After a century of unbridled consumption, we are heading towards a time of ignorance, a time when the light may not come on every time the switch is flicked, when need becomes the mother of frugality.

Frugality is the enemy of the economic model that has been our god since the Industrial Revolution. A simpler life means we want less, buy less and have to produce less. This is heresy and blasphemy in a world where the mall is the new cathedral.

It will not be an easy transformation. People will rummage around looking for new models or reinventing old ones.

Italy, whose people 80 years ago hung a dead Mussolini and his mistress upside down in a Milan square, have chosen a modern-day reflection of the same thing, while the British have reincarnated a version of Maggie Thatcher who has all of her mean instincts minus the political ability .

The simple strains of Gregorian chant could be the fitting soundtrack to the return of the woven shopping basket and smaller portions. Frugality is heresy in a world where the mall is the new cathedral

Fry Electronics Team

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