Luxury from obscene to reality

How our attitude to luxury is evolving

Life is decisive and we are always making choices. Even not making a choice, we allow ourselves to be influenced – which is in itself a choice; irresponsible, yes, but a choice when all is said and done. The decisions we take are as enlightening as their effects. We call “enlightening” those that lead towards substance, a higher grade of truth, of health, harmony. We call “dark” everything that disconnects us from reality, from our soul, from our character, from wisdom and peace. Things which cause us to live in a false world, that drive us to any kind of separatism (e.g. egoism, indifference, flippancy, cruelty, abuse, injustice) are “dark”.

The most positive aspect of luxury is its association with beauty. Beautiful things are inspiring, give us pleasure, stimulate us and make us feel treated well. However, unless we recognise that we are fortunate to have these things; that they are luxuries, and should feel exceptional, the brightness vanishes. The magic is created by an inner attitude and not by external display. An occasional dinner in an excellent restaurant, for example, can be a marvellous event: planned, enjoyed, intensely experienced and later remembered. A special edition leather-bound book might be priceless – in the sense that a work of art is inspiring and well worth the effort of saving up to buy it. Giving beloved friends high quality presents, chosen to suit their tastes, is another meaningful luxury.

When the equation is turned around, when luxury doesn’t serve life, but life is sacrificed to luxury; when a sense of proportion is lost, when luxury is no longer extraordinary but becomes a matter of routine, we have arrived on the dark side. When one’s character becomes distorted and restraint is lost, when there’s no notion of solidarity, and in the maelstrom of that bubble of luxury there’s only tedium, a vicious circle begins: for something to be outstanding it has to be more extravagant. One shows off and consumes, but one doesn’t share, nor is one aware of being entirely on the dark side.

What object in this world could be matched by the beauty of saving one human life? It´s presumptuous and extravagant to have artificial snow in the desert, bottles of water decorated with Swarovski crystals at 180 euros, wristwatches costing a million euros (Hublot’s “Big Bang”) or mobile phones at 30,000 euros, like Nokia’s “Vertu”.

Luxury can only blend with beauty if it serves life, if there is gratitude and continuing restraint. All beauty is lost if everything is turned around and one strays into the territory of materialism and extravagance.

What’s beautiful about buying a one million euro wristwatch or an F.M. Pinto ceramic vase for a fortune, when – according to UNO statistics 2006 – every seven seconds a child aged less than ten years dies of famine? With one million euros, one would be able to finance a project that would save hundreds of thousands of lives. What object in this world could be matched by the beauty of one human life? Life is a jungle of decisions and every decision counts, every unnecessary product we buy. Luxury loses its lustre when we spend three times, five times or ten times more on one article than its real value. Increasingly we bury ourselves further in the depths of hedonism, materialism and shamelessness. We distance ourselves from our own character, our fellow man and reality.

Money is condensed energy, the fruit of someone’s labours, involving sweat, toil, fatigue, skill, strength, and sometimes tears, or dreams made real. Money one possesses always tells a personal life story and ought always to be treated with respect. That principal applies however wealthy one is. If we turn money into an end in itself, we completely lose our way. The current global economic downturn is making this understood on a grand scale. Publications such as “Expansión” – which a few months ago proclaimed “We have sold our souls to the devil” – have reported on it. Money is not the end, it’s a means; it’s an instrument to promote justice, development and peace; it’s a powerful tool for doing good. Many millionaires on our planet – far from dedicating themselves to selfish squandering on luxury – use their fortunes with integrity and discretion; nothing would honour them more.

Well-known surnames from Forbes’ lists, such as Gates, Buffett, Getty, Ford, Rockefeller, Soros, Ellison, Omidyar, Brainerd and Kirsch, currently top the list of charitable donors. The movement known as “venture philanthropy” or strategic charity (characterised by optimising efficiency and clearness) sets the pattern for the dimensions of the social changes we are witnessing.

According to studies by the NGOs “Foundation Center” and “Council of Foundations”, American citizens are at the top of the league table of charitable donations, reaching a record figure of 5.4 billion US dollars in 2007. It’s estimated that this will have been surpassed in 2008. Our intelligence, our money and our might are destined to be instruments of good; our responsibility is proportional to our wealth in each of these three areas.

Hopefully the year 2010 will begin with news that there’s been a decline in luxury. If so, this will have meant an increase in solidarity. If so, it would show that along with Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, many others have decided to walk the path towards the light.

The author Isabella Di Carlo is a psychologist and homeopathy specialist. She offers therapy sessions in English and Spanish at her Palma practice. In her book “Valores que curan” (Healing Values, published in Spanish) she writes with her innate sincerity about spiritual virtues and how to obtain them nowadays. Her language is sometimes scientific, sometimes very intimate, but always convincing.

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