According to Oscar Wilde, “A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.” A pithy quote, to be sure, and one I’m repeatedly reminded of in my current book.
Yes, I succumbed to the lure of the clearance section (Damn you, Barnes & Noble online!) and picked up about a dozen books for about $55. It feels very indulgent.
One of the main ones that caught my eye was The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington. I had read a couple of Dahl’s books as a kid, so I found the whole idea of him as a spy to be strange and intriguing.
It’s a complicated explanation how he came to be wrapped up in it all, but suffice to say that Dahl befriended the rich and powerful, including bedding some of the women, and gleaned useful tidbits of information or simple gossip.
These people live lives I cannot imagine. Mrs. Evelyn Walsh McLean who wears the Hope-friggin-Diamond regularly. Better, I suppose, than keeping it sitting in a case. Still…
This set spends their lives engaging in one social event after another. There is breakfast, luncheon, teas, dinners and parties. They give extravagantly to one another, but never to those suffering in Europe. (That includes the people who are staunchly in favor of aiding Britain in its time of need.)
These people, I think, utterly embody Wilde’s definition of a cynic.
This whole thing is also an excellent reminder of how not to live. Sure, it would be lovely to have the money to do whatever you want. But then I think things start to lose their value.
I’ve definitely noticed that the things we buy on impulse rarely turn out to be treasured items. Even with eBay auctions, I prefer finding something, putting it on a watch list and coming back to it later. Whenever I’m shopping, I just need time for the initial rush — the flood of “Want it! Need it!” emotions — to die down. Then I can look at the situation more objectively.
I feel like there’s just not enough of that in today’s society. Frugal people will always pause to consider options. But even we can get caught up in the excitement or allure of a purchase. And there are now always things to purchase.
It used to be that you had to wait until the stores were open. Now, you can shop online for whatever you need (or, more importantly, want) at any hour. And when you shop, the store’s software finds more things you might like. It’s kind of eerie.
And even online shopping has evolved because now you don’t have to be on the computer to buy. You can be out and about on your phone. Or you can buy an app because you’re out and about and bored. It sometimes makes me wonder how any of us manage not to shop during our waking hours!
Except, of course, then we’d know the price of everything and the value of nothing.