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Previous Story: Diderot’s Old Dressing Gown

Man's Coat and Waistcoat LACMA M.57.35a-b (1 of 3)“Kabir lived in different times,” she answered belligerently, “with different needs. What did he know of the pressures of today’s lifestyle? Kamaal never asked him for an iPhone, because it didn’t exist then.”

“Further, Kabir was incapable of money management. It was his wife Loi who ran his house. She was his manager. It is easy to be content and stress-free when you want nothing, and have nothing to do.”

“As was customary then, all his house management duties were conveniently delegated to her. Feeding the family and feeding his guests became Loi’s constant problem, not his.”

“He never went grocery shopping. Too much choice never plagued him. Because paupers have no choice! Yet, she served him like a Lord. He didn’t have to do anything. Obviously, he would be at peace.”

“Filled bellies find it easy to philosophize about poverty and glamourize paucity. As for your psychoanalysis, knowing about swimming never made anyone an expert swimmer.”

“If you already knew renovating one thing would lead to another, you shouldn’t even have started.”

He sighed at her belligerent outburst. She had taken it too personally. He hadn’t been finger pointing at her for all his extra work, just pointing out that they had been robbed by the Diderot Effect.

“I am neither a psychologist,” he answered, “nor a philosopher. But thinking about our goals, our needs, our wants can help us understand our aspirations as well as our behaviors.”

“There are many reasons we want to buy or do more than we need to. Some motivations are pushed upon us by society, some caused by peer pressure, but some spring from within us too.”

“Either way, understanding what happens and why it happens helps us find out how to reduce getting caught out, eliminate problems, or at least focus on the things that do matter.”

“Easier said than done,” she quipped sarcastically.

“Minds are like parachutes,” he flared finally at her pig-headedness. “They function only when they are open. There is no point in talking to you about sanity right now, when you are so relishing your insanity.”

“But Rosh,” she answered, laughing suddenly at the way he said it. “The trouble with having an open mind is that people come along and try to put their own baggage in it.”

‘She isn’t going to listen,’ he thought. He shook his head and walked away. She followed him around.

“No seriously,” she placated him. “Tell me now! See I have opened my mind - you can even feel the breeze from here!”

When he didn’t respond, she insisted more earnestly, “Rosh! Tell me how to do it. How to reduce overspending? How to beat the Diderot Effect? I do want to know.”

He looked at her distantly. But sensing what seemed like a genuine interest again, he decided to answer her.

“You can’t solve a problem if you are either unaware it exists, or you are in denial. So being aware that a problem exists is a good start. Acknowledging a problem can be difficult, but one can’t still escape noticing the symptoms.”

“Acknowledge them. It helps one acknowledge the possibility that there may be a problem. Then identify the problem.”

“A flooded garden is a symptom; the leaky washer in the garden hose is the problem. A blown budget is a symptom, overspending on Christmas specials is the problem. Then deal with it.”

“Have a budget. It helps you determine and set your limits. Stay within your limits. तेते पाँव पसारिये, जेती लंबी सौर (tete paon pasaariye, jeti lambi saur - meaning stretch your feet only so far as your quilt goes).”

“Isn’t it better to stretch the chadar (expand the capacity, income etc.),” asked Isha, “than to restrict our paanv (our dreams, plans, or expenses)?”

“We do that anyway,” replied Rosh, “don’t we? That is how we live our lives – expanding, accumulating, collecting. We are collectors, eternal gatherers, programmed that way in our genes.”

“It is when we spend beyond our means that we have a problem. The key is to be comfortable with whatever you choose to do, and do it only when you know you'll stay comfortable after you have done it.”

“Stretching feet out of the quilt makes feet cold. Exposes them to mosquitoes. That is not comfortable. It inhibits sound sleep. Doesn't a good sleep matter more in the end?”

“So cutting our coat to our cloth makes sense. Staying ensconced in enclosures we have ourselves created for the night makes sense, even if they are temporarily limiting.”

“Spend what you need to - within self-imposed limits. Spend what you can afford to - comfortably. Apni pahunch vichaar ke, kartab kariye daur. So, it’s not about cutting spending unnecessarily. It is about recognizing temptation and resisting it.”

“It is not easy to stop wanting things,” said Isha.

“There will never be a time when we’ll be done with wanting things. The trick is to discern between what we want and what we truly need. And then learn to want only what we need.”

“If we really want to do something, we'll find a way. If we don't, we'll find an excuse. Interestingly, wanting is just an option that our mind provides. It is not an order that we have to follow.”

“I could get so upset with someone, I may want to kill them. But following through on my wish will have dire consequences - for me and for others. So I desist. Actions have consequences. Likewise with wanting things and upgrades.”

“Still, if one can't resist temptation, Buy One - Give One is a great idea to keep wants in check. Each time we buy something new, let us give something away. Got a new TV? Give our old one away rather than moving it to another room.”

“The idea is to prevent our number of items from growing, unless we really need them to (like we do when we have a baby). James Clear recommends that we always be curating our life to include only the things that bring us joy and happiness.”

“Going one month without buying something new is another of his useful tips. Don’t allow yourself to buy anything new for a month.”

“Instead of buying a new water blaster, rent one from a neighbor. Car pool. Buy stuff overseas on the net, if the total cost works out cheaper than buying from the local retailer.”

Next Story: Soren Kierkegaard

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