Monday, January 26, 2009

Habit of Poverty

Monday, January 26, 2009

The rickety makeshift ladder made from raw planks of wood that connects the ground floor to the basement of our old house must have felt hard and coarse against my young skin but I didn’t feel any discomfort as I sat on its bottom rung for hours and hours devouring the ancient, musty-smelling, brittle-paged books stacked haphazardly in our home's lone bookshelf and, for those that won’t fit it in, packed tightly in threadbare boxes, waiting to be set free. With uncontained relish, I removed those books from their boxes, shook them off free of dust, and uncovered the riches buried in their pages. Only now do I realize that it was I who gained freedom when I set those books free. From this childhood habit, I gained freedom from poverty of the mind.

There weren’t any other sources of entertainment while I was growing up aside from those that can be found in shelves and boxes. Whatever money we had was just (and sometimes not even) sufficient for life’s bare essentials. Austerity wasn’t just a choice for my family; it was our way of life. We never had the chance to play with the latest toys, go to amusement parks, have swimming, piano or ballet lessons, or wear clothes in fashion. All my sisters and I had were our books. In retrospect, I’d never exchange my initial immersion in the world of Crisostomo Ibarra and Maria Clara for any Barbie Doll or Nintendo video game.

Now that austerity can be merely a choice, I find that I am still making it my way of life – a life grounded on the habits of poverty. Having lived most of my life in material deprivation, I still cannot shake off the ingrained penny-pinching and frugality I learned as a child. Though I can already afford some bits of luxury in life, I always think thrice before spending on anything. The spa I thought of having for my birthday, I eventually discarded, rationalizing that it’s just vagarious froufrou I can do without; and I’d be happier reading a book, anyway. The good thing when you come from destitution is that even the simplest things make you happy. Happiness and contentment come cheap.

7 comments:

jacqueline said...

as what people say, you are in charge of your own happiness, and having material possessions doesn't guarantee you will be happy. :) i agree, "happiness and contentment come cheap." :)

Angeli said...

mababaw ang kaligayahan. :)

Anonymous said...

poverty of the mind is punishment for being "ballog". :)

Angeli said...

more learning happens beyond books.

i don't think you are being punished anyway.

:)

diamondmum said...

I thank my mum and grandmother for teaching me how to spend right...save for the rainy days and be always contented with what you have and settle for the one you can afford to have...

In my recollection, I am so happy with the toys bought by my uncle in the garage sale from those rich people in Magallanes Village and the used books sent to us from relatives in the US...a found memory that I treasure and will share with my kids.

I so much agree that people who who live simply life will bear much fruit and can survive the toughest times.

yes indeed, happiness and contentment can always come cheap...

Artemis said...

the best things in life are free :-)

Kayni said...

i was going through the same thought process about the massage i planned for my birthday. anyway, i didn't do it, and will save that money for something more important.

 
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