Poverty as an art form

Here in the UK tax on goods is about to go up, and duty on fuel has risen as well. Duty on fuel puts up the price of pretty much everything, and the VAT hike will make that even more pronounced. At the same time wages are being frozen. People are going to have a lot less money to play with, and for many that’s going to be a frightening prospect. I’m going to intersperse cheap living blogs with my other content. Living cheaply often also means living greener.

Those thrown into poverty for the first time in their lives are often disorientated and upset, by the loss of insulation money brings, the loss of choice and the huge insecurity. Posts written by a friend who has recently been forced onto benefits reminded me of this. The fear of poverty makes the experience of it worse.

I didn’t grow up with a great deal of money. For various reasons I’ve lived in austerity for all of my adult life. (Long story, for another day.) I can say with absolute confidence that not having much money to play with does not automatically equate to misery, degradation and abysmal quality of life. It limits you, certainly. But it’s also a great educator. You have to prioritise carefully, work out what is essential and what isn’t. We’re taught to want far more than we need in a culture that is very much about making us buy stuff. Stepping away from that can be liberating, and if you go into it with a view to being freed from the tyranny of objects, then it becomes an entirely different process.

Attitude is in fact key. How you relate to tightening the belt will inform how you experience it. Go in anticipating misery and you’ll find it. If you can relate to it as a creative challenge, then it’s far less painful. Look back at the make do and mend attitude of the second world war. Take it as an opportunity to reduce waste – which is fantastically green. Reducing waste saves money, but you don’t have to relate to it as some kind of desperation, it’s you doing your bit to help save the planet.

Going green to save money – walking rather than taking the car, doesn’t have to look like poverty to anyone else. Cycle to work rather than take the train? It’s part of your new, healthier lifestyle choice. And at the same time while you’re walking and cycling to get about, you don’t need that gym membership, and on it goes. You can be green and healthy, keep your dignity and lighten the load on your wallet all in one go.

By the looks of it, the way things are going most of us are going to have to figure out how to get by with a lot less. Coming to that as bards, druids and pagans, we should accept the possibilities it brings us rather than letting what we can’t change make us unhappy. Some things cannot be fought to good effect, and the pain dished out by governments is all too often on that list. But, going in with the intention of living well, greenly, healthily and on a tighter budget is a good place to start. There is an art to being poor without being miserable. It comes from releasing the need to own, letting go of desires to be fashionable and up to date, and embracing a quieter, more down to earth lifestyle, one that is in many ways far more compatible with paganism than affluent consumerism is.

Financial poverty is not any other kind of poverty. There are a great many other ways in which we can be rich indeed, and these are, I find, far more rewarding.

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