My mom grew up on a farm. I forget the details, but she said the family of six would have about a pound of meat for a meal (or maybe for a week). Dessert would be an apple.
Americans today routinely eat over a pound of meat in one meal and turn down apples in favor of sweetened delicacies only royalty enjoyed a few generations ago.
Poor Americans today have televisions, smart phones, and so on. They’re cheap because we mass produce them, but a few generations ago any television was a luxury.
I looked up luxury and found a few definitions. Consider these two:
- n. Something inessential but conducive to pleasure and comfort.
- a material object, service, etc., conducive to sumptuous living, usually a delicacy, elegance, or refinement of living rather than a necessity
What we consider luxurious has changed.
Well, if it changed one way, it can change the other.
Alcohol of any kind used to be a luxury. Why not consider it a luxury today? Instead of having a drink any time you go out, why not only drink rarely and learn to appreciate it more?
Sugar used to be a luxury. Wikipedia says:
Contemporaries often compared the worth of sugar with valuable commodities including musk, pearls, and spices. … Formerly an indulgence of only the rich, the consumption of sugar also became increasingly common among the poor too.
Why not consider it a luxury today? If you only have sweet foods rarely, you can learn to appreciate them more when you do.
Television and media of all sorts used to be luxuries. Why not consider them luxuries today?
Some of you might say “The point of progress is to make all these things available. Depriving us of them makes our lives worse.”
I’ll grant that eating less sweetened foods gives you less pleasure and getting rid of a television means you have materially less, but I challenge you that having less of them makes life worse. Physical pleasure and material possessions are not the same as emotional reward or health.
But the point is luxury. If people once considered sugar a luxury, so can you. Part of what made sugar luxurious was its scarcity. Well, in today’s America, avoiding sugar is becoming harder. That means you can create luxury twice. First, by considering sugar a luxury, avoiding it enables you to enjoy it more when you have it. Second, by not eating sugar, you’re eating what’s scarce, which you can consider a luxury again.
I’ll throw in a third luxury: avoiding sugar will give you a more fit body, also becoming more scarce today, which you could consider a luxury.
Luxury is how you perceive it. You can make your life as luxurious and indulgent as you want, and as healthy and emotionally rewarding, by choosing to see what you want as luxurious and indulgent. If anyone else at any other time could, then so can you.
Why not consider
- Eating a piece of fruit dessert a luxurious enjoyment of nature instead of overwhelming its subtlety with sweetness?
- Sipping a drink the luxury of savoring it instead of un-luxuriously drinking it fast and missing its flavors?
- Exercising daily the luxury of creating your health?
- Saving money as the luxury of building wealth?
- Reading a book as the luxury of connecting with great writers?
- and so on
Read my weekly newsletter
Subscribe for a weekly update of musings on leadership, the environment, and burpees.