family night and lifestyle porn

I’d been mulling over minimalism à la babauta (who from his minimalist photo, here, looks oddly like Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, here, no?).

Silly me. A bit overexcited (!) I am, of late, about slowing down, simplifying, meandering my way through a zen-like search for what is true and real. On that tangent I found myself chuckling over a really amusing post I found which calls such pursuits lifestyle porn. It’s true in a way, this way we have of reverse luxuriating.

image by Walt Jabsco via flickr

First world problems, as my daughter puts it, albeit politically incorrectly.  We eschew luxury when we choose to, organize our lives to make them more and more like the ones our own mothers (and fathers) spent so much effort escaping. We mow our lawns with push mowers, knit rustic sweaters out of alpaca that end up costing 3x what they might if we bought a machine-knit one (or made it from the cheap, half acrylic yarn that I usually buy), we bake bread and sweet things which cover our hair with a fine bit of floury bliss and we dream of afternoons spent underneath a tree or on the weather-worn dock on a crystal-clear lake (with our e-reader and cellphone just in case something important happens).

I don’t know, at the same time I find myself craving and enjoying the simpler things in life I also taste a bit of an aftertaste of inauthenticity. Like I’m faking it. Like it’s insulting to those who don’t have that choice. Reminds me of the ivy-league squatters I knew in the then very ungentrified East Village who played at being poor. Ugh.

I read once that right up there with anxiety dreams of not knowing where the class is and the exam is tomorrow are the fears of successful people (not always limited to dreams) that someone will point a finger at them and say “what are you doing here” (in that job, with that fame, with that success). We all fear being found out as facsimiles of what we wish to be. Social media amplifies our ability to craft our image as well as our confusion over what is real and what is pretense.

I admit it… I have my own addiction to lifestyle porn, especially to tiny little cabins on cliffs overlooking the sea. Oh, I know that more likely than not I would find it lovely for a bit and then would be aching for a serious tech fix, for a weekend in the nearest city or a transatlantic jaunt. As Penelope Trunk put it in the article I mentioned above,

“It’s something that people think would be nice to dream about for their lives, but in fact, there is the dirty flip side to minimalism: It’s scary boring.”

But all that minimalist reverie came tumbling down yesterday when I turned on the television for a moment (while assembling some sort of fabulously rustic dish, no doubt) and saw the faces, the names, the ages, of all the innocents who died on 9/11… for what?

And then I read Salman Rushdie’s piece in this week’s New Yorker about how his life was turned completely upside down and spun sideways at time-warp speed when an old man across the world issued an edict calling for his death… for what? A novel. Misunderstood. No doubt offensive to some but never intended as a political statement but instead as a work of fiction which never ever should have even been an issue to anyone other than those who chose (note I say chose) to read it, or review it, to like it or not, to discuss it for a bit and then to put it back on the shelf.

And then today, oh today. Chris Stevens. A pointless death (pointless deaths, rather, for others were also killed), a devastating loss to his family, to his friends, to those who knew him and those (all of us) he served. It remains uncertain still if his death was directly tied to that movie (did you see it? don’t… inane piece of stupidity so ridiculous that it seems like an exaggeration of an SNL sketch. It simply cannot be real.) but even if not, it is all the same.

How ignominiously clever are those who whip up such hatred, which they feed like plague-tainted bits and bytes to the ignorant, the desperate. They come in all shapes and sizes, carry books of all religions, yet they speak the same words of destruction, a language of extremes.

I though, am not much of a political being, simply a human one, who finds this all so very baffling, so very sad.

It was “family night” in our town tonight. Which meant that the teachers did not give any homework, the assignment being to gather with those you love, who love you, at the dinner table. While for many this is a rarity, we do that most every night, so it seemed quite normal (and, a luxury at the same time). We had a simple dinner, shared a few laughs and eventually everyone slipped into their rooms to read, to write, to sleep.

Well, ok… actually I knit a bit first. And read a novel I chose. And wrote what I felt. All of which are luxuries in the minds of some.

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