I did something extravagant, bordering on the reckless, yesterday. I bought a new razor. Not an electric one, just an ordinary razor for wet shaving. But it was made in Sheffield and it was (and I mean this in a positive way) the best I could afford. I had spent months deciding which razor to buy. I must have checked every shaving blog in the world and read The Independent's top ten razors review multiple times. I had ummed and ahhed repeatedly over whether or not I should spend the money on such a luxury or on something I possibly needed more such as new clothing. Therefore, when the razor arrived this morning in the post I was extremely excited and I would guess that is not the usual response to the purchase of such a mundane object. I opened the box carefully, it was beautifully packaged. I cut the sellotape instead of impatiently ripping it off. I took out each item from the box one by one and read all the printed material that came with them. I placed the razor, the blades, the free tube of creme and the alum sticks tidily on the kitchen worktop and looked at them for some while. Later today I will slowly and methodically enjoy using my new razor for the first time. I anticipate that it will be very satisfactory.
Recently a Facebook friend of mine gave me free tickets for a screening in a local cinema of the current production of "Hamlet" that stars Benedict Cumberbatch. The performance is in two weeks time. The last time Mrs MP and myself went out for the evening was back in June, if I remember correctly, when we went to the final year concert put on by the Newcastle University folk degree students. Therefore, we are really looking forward to going to the play like children anticipating Christmas during Advent. We will thoroughly enjoy every part of the experience from the getting washed and ready beforehand to long discussions about its merits and otherwise afterwards. If there is an interval, and I am sure there will be, we will enjoy scoffing our ice creams as well.
In a couple of months time my mother will, as she has done since I lost my job, send us a cheque for enough money to buy a slap up Christmas dinner and we will spend the cheque on that and nothing else. Our Christmas dinner nowadays is a feast in the true sense of the word. We make festival through our indulgence.
I hate being unemployed and hard up. It is hard work and it is boring beyond belief. I do not want to be unemployed and if I was offered a job back in the Church tomorrow I would snatch the patron's hand off. But there have been experiences during my four years of impoverishment that I shall treasure and hopefully learn from. One of these is the mindfulness that you develop when good things are rare and far between. When you can have what you want when you want, within reason, the experience of possession becomes dull. You wish you could get back the feeling of excitement that new things gave you when you were young but it is impossible, everything anticipated turns out to be a bit of a disappointment, not as enjoyable as you thought it would be. However, when unemployment or other bad fortune turns what is routine for most people into a special occasion for yourself then the way you experience the "little things in life" becomes heightened and more joyful.
I am not the material that monks and hermits are made of. To be honest, I find the idea of deliberately giving up morally acceptable pleasures to be rather perverse. Therefore, I do not suggest that Christians, or anyone else for that matter, should give up everything. But my enforced frugality of recent years has shown me that you can easily have too much in life and that you can easily come to take what you do have for granted to such an extent that you stop fully enjoying what you have. The simple life is often nowadays portrayed as a naive impossibility attempted only by hippies, crusties and somewhat embarrassing women who are into New Age therapies, but I think this may be sour grapes from those who want it but know they are not strong enough to let go of what they would have to give up to achieve it. I was one of those people and I was pushed into the simple life kicking and screaming. I hope that I have learned enough about the value of the ordinary during this difficult time of my life to be able to resist the lure of constant acquisition should I ever, in the future, be in the position to not worry about every penny that comes my way.