Monday, August 10, 2009

Not Buying It - A book(s) review

At this point in my life I find myself BOTH (1) miserably cleaning out a whole room of my house full of things I don't know where to put or what to do with, and (2) still making lists in my head of new things I need to buy.

I wonder how really poor people in other cultures spend their time since they aren't reasearching things to buy, buying things, maintaining things, storing things and getting rid of things. Sometimes this seems like a frightfully large chunk of my waking hours. Of course they are probably spending their time making long walks to get water and scrubbing what clothes they have on rocks and working long hours for sweatshop pay. I don't mean to be flip about this serious matter, I am just pondering it all.

On that subject, I recall a book I read a while ago called Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping in which the author, Judith Levine, gives up spending money on all but basic food and necessities (and that much-needed house remodeling project that she started before writing the book) for one calendar year.

Ms. Levine is not a Catholic author - minimally Jewish. And she is prone to now-outdated political tirades and language and subject matter generally offensive to my sensitive ears. Therefore, as the author of this Catholic blog, I cannot recommend that you actually read this book (unless that is your cup of tea). I will give you the highlights.

Interestingly, in her book Ms. Levine didn't seem to spend much time worrying about what constituted a want and what was actually a basic necessity. I would think that I would be agonizing over all that grey, borderline stuff every day. Maybe deep down we all really know the difference better than we think we do.

The two hardest things for her were (1) figuring out how to give a wedding gift to a special family member (she ended up passing on a special piece of family jewelry that was much appreciated) and (2) not being able to eat meals out when friends invited her.

If you actually don't have money and friends are going out for a social dinner they will probably either not invite you, go someplace cheap for you or buy your meal. What if they know you HAVE the money but don't want to spend it? You have to keep refusing invitations and it seems like cheating to tell them you are writing a book . . . Very interesting.

So with the time I have just saved you by summarizing Not Buying It, you should definitely check out another book in this new Minimally-Jewish-People-Doing-Weird-Experiments-For-A-Year (MJPDWEFAY) literary genre called The Year of Living Biblically, One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible. Since he is Jewish, when author A. J. Jacobs says "Bible" he means "Old Testament", whose commands may be easier to literally do than New Testament commands (for example growing a beard versus loving your neighbor). And he conducts his experiment in New York City where his visibly odd public behavior probably is less likely to get him beat up than, say, Wisconsin. To make it easier still, he settles for tackling the commandments individually instead of simultaneously. A good, gentle read nevertheless.

During his year, he talks to people from all sorts of fringe and mainstream religious groups. Sufis to snake handlers (no Roman Catholics). He approaches all this, as did Ms. Levine in her book, from a real desire to know and learn, which endears me to this MJPDWEFAY genre. There are also some really funny moments in his book which I will not ruin for you. How do you fulfill the command to stone adulterers or to not sit in any chair that was sat in by a woman in the "unclean" time of her monthly cycle (Leviticus 15:20)? Read and see.

I would like to apologize for this unusually long post. Having read it all the way to the end you definitely deserve to buy yourself a treat. You can spend the rest of the day thinking and researching what that treat should be.

1 comment:

  1. I have heard of The Year of Living Biblically but not the other book you mentioned. Both sound like a good read....wonder if they're available at out local library. Must check that out.

    Great post!!!