On the face of it, I can see how this whole endeavor might look like rampant materialism. Everything you've been perfectly happy with up until now is shit, I seem to be saying. You must immediately discard it all to make way for "good" shit.
Maybe you chalk this up to the object lust of a poor kid longing for the better, more expensive things that life has largely denied her. It could seem like I'm using the same tactics (fear of inadequacy, manufactured dissatisfaction) that Madison Avenue has already honed and deployed to great effect.
This isn't true. Well, I do still suffer from the poor kid thing, but I'm working on that.
I'm advocating a way of being, not of buying.
Anyway, I thought I would lay out what I actually believe about all this stuff, some core principles, if you will.
Use The Good Soap is all about:
- Gratitude. We live in a time of unprecedented abundance. I am not kidding. Un-fucking-precendented. Someday, historians will prove that the average high school girl in 2011 owned more dresses than Cleopatra. And while this isn't always a universal good, the truth is that most of us have a whole hell of a lot, relative to most of humankind throughout most of history. We are the lucky ones. It does us good to stop and reflect on that. It can put a little bit of shine back into our lives.
- Self-Worth. Oh, guilt. Where would Western Judeo-Christian civilization be without your self-hating embrace? More generous and kind, maybe? More at peace, perhaps? Nah. Surely not. But, lemme ask you: Why don't we think more critically about the way we approach ur lives and the stuff we surround ourselves with? Because many of us (fellow recovering Catholics, I'm looking at you) have been reared and socialized to feel guilty when we think of our own needs, guilty when we ask for what we want, guilty when we want to steer our lives in a direction contrary to those around us. Guilt is a feeling of being unclean and unworthy. Self-worth and joy are its opposites and its antidotes.
- Pleasure. If the guilt industrial complex has cornered the market on self-loathing, it has ordered a hit on pleasure. Pleasure is forbidden, which can make everything sweeter, from the taste of hot fudge as you lick it off your lips to the sensation of warm sand against your skin (or someone else's!). But pleasure is more than just being "bad." Pleasure is important, in all kinds of ways and for a plethora of reasons. It reconnects us to our own bodies and helps us be fully present in the moment. An expanded definition of pleasure and its enthusiastic embrace is something I'm gonna talk about a lot.
- Generosity. Growing up in violence and poverty put a chip on my shoulder and sent me out into the world with a heightened sense of my own difference. No matter how nice people were to me, I found it hard to shake the feeling that I had my nose pressed against the glass of life's better restaurants, and that everyone else had it easier, not to mention was having more fun. When I started practicing generosity, mainly of the emotional/spiritual kind, everything changed. The imaginary window that separated me just dissolved and not only did I get to eat the food and enjoy the company, I got to invite other people to join the fun.
Yeah, I think these are the big ones.