January 16, 2012

Life Is a Museum, Not a Store.

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Want friends? Buy yourself a kick-ass wardrobe and a bottle of champagne.

Life is not a store.

This may not sound profound. Of course life isn’t a store. You can’t buy happiness, right?

But America thinks you can. Want health? Buy pills. Want friends? Buy yourself a kickass wardrobe and a bottle of champagne. Want beauty? Buy artwork and curtains.

I don’t have it figured out. I still buy myself life. I buy myself goodness at the farmers market, and identity (and a hobby) through the hosting fee for my blog. And I have a Bloomingdale’s credit card that I use and abuse like no one’s business. Consider this not a lecture, but a pep talk for you and myself.

What if we treated life like a museum instead of a store? What if, instead of thinking how we could make the good stuff ours, we studied it, read up on its history, discussed it, and then moved on? We could always come back later, and appreciate it again. Or take a picture so we could savor the fact that we were there. But I bet it would save us a lot of grief and money if we stopped trying to own things and instead just appreciated them.

Life as a store is buying a DVD to watch on your laptop. Life as a museum is seeing a showing in the park with friends.

Life as a store is bottle service with a skimpily-clad waitress and i-bankers hitting on you from the table next to yours. Life as a museum is BYOB at your apartment with good friends and a few new people who’ve tagged along.

Life as a store is a touristy tour of historic and nature sites. Life as a museum is a self-guided hike with nothing but a map and a sense of curiosity.

Life as a store is seeing a beautiful, stylish woman, and adding what she’s wearing to your shopping list. Life as a museum is admiring her, and maybe paying her a sincere compliment. And then moving on.

I want to live life in a well-stocked museum with rotating exhibits, where you could linger for hours and drink in so much beauty it makes your brain tired. I don’t want to live life in a place where people hover, waiting for you to either give them money or leave. Let’s drink in the beauty, take a picture, or just remember it, and then keep going.

Tell me: What do you do to drink in life like a museum exhibit?

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Barbara E. Berger Jun 22, 2014 2:18am


Chrystos Jan 17, 2012 7:06am

Thank you, Alden. As a PS (or a warm forshadowing,) when you have kids, who LOVE to acquire—-the stakes and the forces are so much more powerful, to try to own. I love the trails outside Boulder—-should I attempt to (literally or figuratively) own them? Nyet!!! Foolish mortal!! Thanks again, Alden. Keep up the great work.

Andréa Balt Jan 17, 2012 6:27am

Great post Alden.

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Susie Lynch ~ My sister died suddenly on 12/21/11. Her memorial service was on 1/14/12. A dear friend wrote a beautiful tribute that included this comment: "Barb overflowed. Her creativity never ended and I don't mean creativity in art alone. Her life was a creation. Everything she touched became more delightful and filled with appreciation, insight and love. Including me." Your post made me think of that. Never stop creating yourself or encouraging others to create their own lives. It's all art.
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Alden Wicker

Alden Wicker is a freelance journalist and founder of EcoCult.com, a blog about all things sustainable in New York City and beyond. She also writes about electronic music, personal finance, and yoga for publications such as Well + Good, Refinery29, LearnVest, Huffington Post and Narratively.