It’s past midnight as I ready myself to brew another cup of coffee. I have De Tocqueville to read, Carlotta Walls Lanier’s memoir, some Mill, some Kant. Six years of off-and-on university study and I’d venture to say the two constants have indeed been a heavy dose of Mill and Kant.
Coffee hasn’t been. I’ll drink it regularly for a month, and then be fully off it the next. I drank it with regularity for the year I worked in an office cubicle, and then only ventured to grab it during my year of schooling last year when I was on the verge of falling asleep at an inopportune moment.
It is interesting to me, in fact I marvel at the fact, sometimes, that there are goods that people truly need to have in order to function. Whether it be coffee in the morning or food during the day or drink at night, it is a remarkable notion, to me, that these serve as urges that need to be quelled in order for body and mind to function.
Sure, it may occur to me that at a particular moment a coffee or some food or some drink would be nice in the moment, but it has never prompted me to take much action out of a feeling of necessity. If I want a coffee, and there is nothing in the pantry to make this volition a reality, I’ll very rarely walk or drive to get one. Food is nice, but very seldom am I truly hungry, and if there’s nothing readily available, I’ll rarely go drive and get something or run to the grocery store. If I want to unwind and have no booze, then there is a very high likelihood that I’ll be unwinding without booze to aid me.
Perhaps this is just a testament to me being generally lazy—a charge I don’t altogether dispute. Not to say that I don’t seek to accomplish tasks, but, to readily illustrate my point, the lawn would get mowed and the flowers watered because I knew that my parents appreciated a sharp lawn and blooming flowers. On a personal level, I didn’t give a shit if the lawn was unkempt or if the flowers, lovely as they are when they blossom, grew to any great height.
I can apply this logic to most things. I rarely shave, and nearly the only time you could get me to do so was before I would be visiting my late Nana. She preferred me clean-shaven, and for the amount of times she spoiled me in her company, dawning a bare face when I visited her was the least I could do.
So when a Diogenes of Sinope instructs us to live in a minimalistic manner, I wonder to myself how it’s a particularly noble pursuit to get by on some of the more bare essentials. Living in excess, seemingly, would just be stressful. Wondering where to get my next coffee, wondering whether it’s Liquor Store A or Liquor Store B that’s still open at a certain hour of the evening, all of these things would add unnecessary stress to an existence that already offers its fair share of complications.
In running these errands, there would be less time to read about Jeremy Corbyn’s victory at the Labour Conference in Liverpool at the weekend or, further yet, less time to watch Liverpool dispatch Hull City 5-1 a few miles away. Less time to read every Colin Kaepernick hot take under the sun, less time to scroll through my twitter feed to read what’s got Left twitter all riled up for the day, and less time to fiddle around with my fantasy sports lineups. In avoiding life’s little complications, its little trips to accrue things to put in my body that I’ll assuredly piss or shit out later on, I try to optimize the leisure time. Much of it consists in reading about the happenings of the world and watching the athletes who play their sport better than I ever could.
So much of this exercise is a means of maximizing leisure time. I think part of me knows it’s also a leisure time that isn’t guaranteed for much longer. I can afford to get sidetracked reading the news and listening to fantasy podcasts between my classes today because I have these wee hours of the morning to sip coffee and read what I was supposed to be reading.
You can’t get away with this lifestyle forever. There will be programs that demand my full attention during the day, jobs that will demand my full attention during the day, presumably a family down the road that will demand it during the hours that aren’t devoted to a profession. Ideally these will all be enjoyable aspects of life, or at least the family element of it—so to distinguish family time from leisure time may be selling the former short. But needless to say, the family won’t be gathering around to listen to fantasy podcasts and read about British politics together.
Much of that would fall under the category of sacrifices we make for those we care about. When that’s the case, they’re of course not really sacrifices. Mowing the lawn, shaving my beard, they take a little bit of time, in the literal sense, but they’re just things you do to make the lives of those around you a little bit better. The same payoff doesn’t seem to register for me when it comes to acquiring resources, substances, possessions—I’d just rather be doing something else.
I can’t help but think this way of life does have its drawbacks though—especially in the rapid world we inhabit. In quite literally not participating in a lot of small tasks because I don’t consider them to be necessary to my well-being, you could find yourself unequipped with some skills that you ought to have. I know nothing about cars, putting shit together out-of-a-box is quite the trying experience.
In refusing to grow attached to anything, you can grow overly-confident, overly-independent (read: living as a hermit). I’ll often joke with James that I hate receiving advice, and I’ve never taken the advice that anyone’s given me. It’s an exaggeration, but only a slight one, and I don’t need to elaborate as to why that’s not the best way to carry oneself.
Like anything else, there’s probably a balance to strike. There’s enough time in the day to stimulate the mind and run errands that amount to little in the grand scheme of things. Grocery shopping, cooking a meal, whatever it is, provide opportunities to get outside one’s mind in doses.
So as I continue to spend days mapping out my future, thinking ahead but not quite fully able to stop dwelling on things that have happened or lives that have been cut inexplicably short, I’ll try to remember that sometimes indulgence, of the unnecessary variety, is okay.