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For those that have me met more than a couple of times, you know how much I love beautiful things. I am sort of a beauty junkie. I actually intent to write about that topic. I just love finding beauty. I go on beauty hunting days to get a glimpse of the beauty in the world. My weapon is my digital camera. I search restlessly until I find beauty.
In any case, loving beauty so much, I love it in nature but also in material objects. For example, I find some cars absolutely beautiful: A Jaguar, Mercedes, Austin Martin, Lotus,…I can’t really like a Bugatti even if it is the faster most expensive cars ever: you need to install the roof top on the convertable yourself and, at 2.5 million dollars, I think the engineering should be better.
I dream of owning a Porsche Carrera 4S, navy blue with beige interior. In the past, I wanted a SAAB 900S and also a mid 1990’s Jaguar Vanden Plas and had pleasure in driving both them. I guess the Porsche is coming up next.
Most people that I have spent some time with me know how spiritual I am. I am not religious but believe in the world of the non visible. Can both spirituality and materialism go together? I will write about that later.
On rare occasions, some people visited my “in transit playground” as I like to call it; an apartment I rented to be close to my brother and until I find where I really wanted to live. Well, my playground is the absolute basic. There is no fluff, no luxury, no expensive stuff. I just maybe don’t really care about expensive stuff.
Isn’t there a contradiction? No. In fact, I believe there is huge gap between wants and needs and when the difference is understood, we stand one step closer to pure bliss.
So, I live in a tiny apartment next to the river, with the bare necessities in it. No fluff. Why? When all people around me are chasing the newest technologies and running after the trendiest purchase. I think I found out I had enough. Or maybe, don’t want to invest since I am in transit. Or maybe, I feel I had it all.
My father used to say: “When you are young you are always moving in to a bigger place and then, you need to fill it up. When you get old, you want to move to the smallest place, and you downsize, get rid of stuff.” As I listened in my car to an audio book called “Have a little faith”. Mitch Albom talks about his Rabbi saying that when you get closer to death, you realize that really, you are not going to bring anything with you. I am far from death and evidently much younger than his ninety year old Rabbi. Yet, I might have grown old sooner and figured out that I won’t take anything with me. But I can only leave this earth filled with tons of love I had given around me.
So, there lies the main difference between wants and needs. I feel like a real kid a lot of times. I love to laugh and play. I admire the world like a child and am grateful to be able to do so most of the time regardless of what my personal circumstances are. It took some practice though and I am still learning how to go back in childhood. As a child, I have super duper wants of great stuff like Porshes’ and a cool Yamaha motorcycle like the one Lara Croft rides. I want beautiful things because of the beauty junky in me.
I won’t pay the high price for them though, that would be insane. I remember in my twenties, I had gone to a car show. I just loved looking at all the spectacular new models. It felt exhilarating. Yet, that time, I was struggling financially. I was working full time to pay for my full time University studies and doing radio shows for the love of hearing my voice I guess and for the passion of reading books. But, I was tired and broke. I was earning $7,000 a year and my school only cost me almost half of that. I created food out of nothing and valued money a lot. I went to the car show and fell in love with a SAAB 900S. I thought it was God’s creation and not men’s. My eyes were shining with envy and the salesman, feeling sorry let me sit in the car. He also gave me a box of tissues because I cried for a long time. The car of my dreams was $70,000 then. Ten times what I earned in a year. It was an impossible love and I had to let go. Mind you, I also cried in the Jaguar, the Mercedes and the Range Rover… In any case, a few years later, my first dream car was a SAAB 900S, paid $700. And, because I treasured it for what it was, a God’s creation and a beautiful piece of machine, I never fell out of love with him. And I say him on purpose. I even cried when I had to let him go when he died on me. My happiness with the car was ever lasting because I never regarded it as a need to get somewhere but as a want that fulfill me on its own.
I think we can start being grateful when our basic needs are met. The ones for food, clothes, roof and love. The necessary ones to be able to survive that most people on the planet don’t even fully enjoy the luxury of. Then, secondary needs might mean to have a vehicle and ways to learn, perhaps. What else we really need? To inspire, be remembered somehow, give back, feel appreciated.
Wow, when we think of it, the rest is really pure luxury. When we really stop and think about what makes us really happy, the wants fall far from meeting that criteria. Bliss comes from within. So why do I love then all the luxurious items.
Well, I feel blessed most of the time. The cars, motorcycles, planes, boats are not means that I need in order to fill me with fake bliss. I see them as wants, as a kid would want to have and play. And if we are God’s children then the Universe should be our playground and we are entitled the toys in it.
But, we need to remember that we don’t need any of the toys.
When I was sixteen years old, I thought we were rich people. My parents owned a pastry shop in the best area of town. Rich people came all the time to buy our stuff. I felt I was on top of the world. My brother and I used to go play tennis at a very high class sort of club. I asked to go to the top College of the city where I could be learning more sitting next to Prime Minister’s sons and top earning dollars lawyers.
I earned enough from my work at the pastry that I could buy whatever my heart desired. Strangely my heart desired books, lots of them, some nice cloths but not too much. I had my own TV and record player. It was very important since my room was my Universe. Ever since I can remember, I was mostly in solitude in my room where I could do all and even do most simultaneously: watch TV while reading, writing poetry and painting and tinkering and exercising my set-ups while singing. Well, maybe not all at once but “multi-tasking” was always great fun.
At first, I thought it was cool to be in that top dollar school. Within a few days, I was with the rebels, the non-conformists. I wore jeans, a large sweater and a cap with my hair tucked under in sign of protest to the blah looking preppy rich kids. Funny isn’t it, how we label it all? I think what mostly what I didn’t like was the attitude that they owned the world and could crash daddy’s car every week because he would buy a new one to buy off the love he couldn’t give to his son; or, the bowls of coke I saw in some parties and for the longest time, naively thought they were bowls of sugar (I actually wondered why do they need so much sugar without any coffee?).
I got disappointed with the way those kids acted with their riches. Nevertheless, I have to admit that the two College years were possibly the most fun ones of my education. Not because I learned a lot. I was a gifted child so retaining information was very easy. Forgetting it later on was as easy. But, just for finally feeling free, having friends to hang out with. I let go of some of my shyness then and that feeling was more than having any kind of money. There were also my darkest years, toughest on an emotional level. My parents divorced that year. Same year as I met my first boy friend. A lot of turmoil and questioning.
But we were rich for a while. We had been somewhat poor too, or what we think poor is. In Paris, we had no bathroom. We used a shared Turkish toilet per floor (a hole in the floor in a closet size of bathroom, not really walk-in closet size either ) and we only took real showers once a week at a common bath (paid for half an hour in advance then my mom would run downstairs with a towel wrapped around her to pay for a few more minutes). Yes, even nowadays, in Paris. My mom would give us sponge baths in the kitchen and wash our hair in the sink. I slept in the same room as my brother separated by a curtain.
But then, my parents had so many friends. They would come over. I remember the music, the dancing, the holding the furniture so it would not tip over with so much jumping up and down. I remember the joyful embraces, the difficult parting after a real real good time. I was very young but those memories were burned into my brain. We moved, got rich supposedly but were just the four of us. There were no more parties, no more friends coming over, no more joyful long evenings. Just work, work, work and all the terrible stuff that comes with worries, fatigue and stress.
So my parents divorced, and later still worked together in another pastry shop my dad had rented. Could write a book just about that period of my life. Maybe I will. In any case, one day, at age twenty one, I got a call. My parents went bankrupt. They had lost everything. My dad had mismanaged his finances and bailiffs came to pick up everything they could. They were not really bright as they massacred the large gaz oven that could have blown us all to pieces. So my parents were poor. I felt poor as well. I was anyway, living on my own for three years, struggling to pay for University and food.
My mom, tearful, handed the pastries made early that day to strangers walking on the street. One old time client rented a cab that drove back and forth delivering the goodies to different charity organisations, bless her. Another complained that the free cake was vanilla and she preferred chocolate. A TV reporter came so we could appear on sad evening news as one more casualty of recession (not the one we supposedly live now, another from which we learned nothing). She looked as I approached her and only said: “I just watched thirty five years of my life go through that window. But I feel blessed, I have my health.”
I often asked myself when were really the richest, the poorest. I always great memories of my life in France, even with the common toilet. I loved the smell of the old wooden staircase. I loved my friends dearly and it took me numerous years to trust that I could have friends again. The relationships we had then were more than any money can buy. I am convinced my parents would have not divorced in Europe. Also, on the other side of the Ocean, we had family. here, we had some coins and that too was lost.
So there is a difference between wants and needs. Or, what we believe richness is all about. As I said, I want a lot of stuff. I am really absolutely grateful to be able to love someone and feel that mirrored back to me. I am grateful for my friends which are part of my soul, that I love profoundly and unconditionally. I feel blessed for my physical shape and condition, my health. I am appreciate always that I have a roof, even more than one. I eat almost whatever I want (now I eat whatever I allow myself but that’s a different story). I thank God for my freedom and luck to be able to write this. The time that I have is immense and I feel so much joy in knowing that I can enjoy that time.
So, the Jaguar, the Lotus and range Rover are truly extras. So is the brand new High definition whatever else they say about it or the new I-phone or PlayStation. Remember when the pong was trendy? It was a tennis kind of game you paid on TV, just two lines and a ball going back and forth. In this day of age where new technologies appear faster than our own wants change, I don’t want to imagine all we are throwing away, and how fast. Where do all our yesterday’s wants end up: where is that big garbage can? And it is not like on our computer when we empty the trash and it just vanishes into outer space.
All that stuff doesn’t make us happy anyway. happiness is created in our souls. Maybe, even more, it is serenity that we can develop and that surpasses any happiness. I admit feeling happy when I acquire something I want but that happiness of owning does not die down because I know I don’t need it and rejoice all the time of the luck of owning that beautiful thing. So let’s remember to take time to be grateful that our needs are met and confuse less the wants with the needs.
We don’t need the house, we just want it. We don’t absolutely need that sweater that is on sale. We don’t need more because we get a second one at half price. We just want it. We won’t die if we don’t have it so it is easier to control the need to buy it.
write by Gregory Binford