Lent starts tomorrow. Today is a day of pancakes (with cinnamon, sugar and lemon, natch). And tomorrow is a day for giving things up and reflecting upon life, generally. Its something I don’t always do – but I think there is a place for taking a break from certain bits of your life and thinking about what they do for you. I think I’d think it worth it, even if I weren’t a Christian and it weren’t a theological thing (a good theological thing – which, I admit isn’t a descriptor to be applied to all theological things).
Because I work at a great place with some fab people who like to produce stuff that makes you think about what you’re doing with your life, I’m giving up giving up things like nail-biting (an epic failure, since the age of five) and chocolate (just, an epic failure waiting to happen), and trying something a little different. I’m going to take part in the Consumer Detox.
I am going to be giving up buying books, and thinking a bit about what I buy and how and why I buy it. Generally spekaing I have a book budget, but being me, I set my book budget at a level that allows me to pretty much pick up whatever book I fancy picking up whenever I want it (as long as I’m not trying to buy an academic monograph – which is the sort of thing I do occasionally do) – and I don’t really think about it. The book then sits on my shelf or in my kindle for a while, until I’m once again in the mood for it (fiction), or I get the time to engage in that particular topic (non-fiction) and then I read it. I have approximately 15 feet-worth of bookshelves, of which around 1/4 to 1/3 are unread. I also have several boxes under a bed and in a storage room at my parents home – with around the same percentage unread. This does not seem sensible, really – although I keep them, sure in the knowledge that I will read them. One day. (In the meantime, I wasted some of the potential hours in which I could have read them buying and reading ‘One Day’ – which was, really, not that great).
I want to change this. I don’t necessarily think it’s a problem buying and reading a lot of books (though, critically speaking, it does depend somewhat on the books…) – but I do want to think about what I’m buying and when. Do I just, for example, buy Kevin Kelly’s What Technology Wants for my kindle on the way home from church, because it was mentioned in a talk about how Christianity engages with science and I think it sounds fab. And then not read it for a month. Do I buy Coriolanus on the spot after seeing the movie (still fab) ‘so that I can do some thinking’ about the nature of virtus – when I have no time at that exact moment to do any such thinking at all and very definitely had the time to take to go and find a cheap, second-hand copy for when I did have the time? I’m enthralled by books, and have been every since I was able to splay my mucky baby paws all over The Very Hungry Caterpillar – but at times it feels like I’m in thrall to them.
So, for the next month I’m going to try not to buy any books (apart from the gifts I have to get a couple of people) – books for me, I suppose. Instead I’m going to make a list of the ones I feel like I want and wait until Easter, and then I can decide whether I still actually want to read them, or not, or whether I can just get them from the library (because I live all of five minutes walk from a library) or whether I want to own them. I just want to be a little more in control of my book shopping – and I think it might be good to try and take a break from shopping for books to do it.
Of course, in an Alanis-Morisette-Isn’t-It-Ironic kind of way (does that date me?), I have had to buy a book to support me on this journey. So, I have bought Mark Powley’s book Consumer Detox for my Kindle, and I am going to be working through it every week until easter, using this little study guide and the internet as my study group. I’ve just finished reading the first chapter… thoughts to follow.