“It is a luxury to do something that serves no purpose: the luxury of civilisation” – M. L. Stedman, ‘The Light Between Oceans’
This is a quote from a book I read a couple of years ago and I just found it written down in my notes. Firstly, it’s a great book, give it a read. There’s not a lot of action though, it’s more of a character story. I mean, things happen (unlike in a Tim Winton novel), but it’s not action packed.
Ok, enough book recommendations, although if you want some, HERE are some I did a while ago.
This quote struck me as really profound at the time, but has now taken on a whole new depth. Given that I now live in a developing nation, this has become part of my reality, not just an interesting concept to ponder. I hadn’t only considered it as an abstract concept before, but now I’m faced with what this actually looks like on a day to day basis.
Let me first say that the word ‘civilisation’ is pretty loaded. I don’t meant it (and neither did the book) in a derogatory way. It was addressing the issue of people having enough and not having to work desperately hard for everything. The book is set just after WWII when people are coming off rations and starting to have disposable income again.
When you are poor, your time is taken up with a lot of things that are necessary. There are lots of things that we buy to make our lives easier and quicker, such as washing machines, dishwashers, having plumbing, hoses, having lots of clothing, toiletries, cars, bikes, TVs, radios, computers, books, etc. Having a washing machine saves me a lot of time. Being able to go to a shop saves me a lot of time. Having electricity and running water saves me a lot of time. You get my point.
For a few months I was hand making my own bread. It takes a long time and is rather inconvenient. Someone recently gave me a bread maker and now I have a few extra hours a week. Brilliant! If I didn’t have a washing machine I dread to think how awful doing my laundry would be. Very time consuming.
Money makes things easier. No, money isn’t the most important thing, not by a long shot, but wow does it ease life! I have time to watch TV. I have time to read. I have time to play cards with my friends. If my time was taken up by necessities, I couldn’t fit in reading for pleasure, it’s a luxurious thing that I want to do. I don’t have access to a lot of English books where I am, and certainly nothing new, but I do have an e-reader. Again, something that helps me do something luxurious that I can only do because I have money.
Having the time and money to do things I want to do, for no other reason than I want to do them, is a luxury that a lot of the world do not experience. Walking for exercise is a purely western thing. Adding exercise to your life is a relatively new concept, and it still doesn’t exist in lots of parts of our world. I walk for exercise, but I don’t see any Indonesians doing it. I see some of them running (mostly the military) and lots of them play sport, but needing to incorporate exercise into your schedule is definitely not something that a lot of the world do. Having enough food to give you enough energy is more of an issue than finding ways to work it off!
I live very well compared to the average person in Indonesia, but my time is still taken up by things that it wasn’t taken up with before. Not only do some things take more time than they used to because of a lack of conveniences, but there are limited things that are luxurious and unnecessary even when I have the time. Luxurious in the sense that they aren’t necessary. There is no form of entertainment here, there is nothing to do and no where to go. Hence all the beach trips every other weekend, there is nothing else to do and the weather is always perfect for it, even when it’s raining! We play cards and chat and stuff, but there are no places to go for entertainment, we have to make our own fun. Which is fine, it’s just different.
I have the luxury of choosing my own career. I don’t have to work a particular job to survive. I don’t have to grow my own food to survive. I don’t have to carry clean water a long way to survive. I am so blessed.
I have always had, not just the resources, but also the time to do things that I want to do, and I need to appreciate how special that is. It is not the experience of everyone, (even in western society at times).
It really is a privilege to be able to do anything that is a luxury. I am blessed indeed.
(Photos 2, 3 & 5 courtesy of my brother from his time in Uganda)