Why "cheap" isn't necessarily a good thing

Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture

But Shell wonders if our expectations are too low. We no longer expect craftsmanship in everyday objects; maybe we don’t feel we even deserve it. “Objects can be designed to low price,” she writes, “but they cannot be crafted to low price.” But if we stop valuing — and buying — craftsmanship, the very idea of making something with care and expertise is destined to die, and something of us as human beings will die along with it: “A bricklayer or carpenter or teacher, a musician or salesperson, a writer of computer code — any and all can be craftsmen. Craftsmanship cements a relationship between buyer and seller, worker and employer, and expects something of both. It is about caring about the work and its application. It is what distinguishes the work of humans from the work of machines, and it is everything that IKEA and other discounters are not.”

via IKEA is as bad as Wal-Mart | Salon Books.

I try to support local artists and craftsmen as much as possible. Much of my jewelry is hand crafted by a local silversmith friend, and I have hand crafted pottery and mugs and artwork and many other things. The closest store to my house is a WalMart, where I never shop. I haven’t bought anything from Ikea in years, since everything we got there simply fell apart after a very short time. Yes, I get tired of my things, but I try to get myself to look at their wabi sabi nature, and appreciate that the things I own are made well enough to last for a long time.

Casey’s points today are well taken:

The shape of life defines a space (what we call the empty space in Taoism) that defines each person. We feel a need to place within our empty space connection and meaning. If you consume meaning, after the consumption: you are left with nothing and left chasing more consumption.

The answer people seek can be stated simply:

To have a full life is to live it.

We spend a lot of time and effort trying to avoid emptiness, filling our lives with activities and other people and lots of stuff and things. I spent a lot of time in my life being afraid of the void, fearing what would happen if I lost things, if I lost friends, if I lost myself. Well, all those things happened, and the best part was all the other things I found — that the void isn’t really so scary, that “crazy” people are often the sanest people around, with a different perspective on life that can be very enlightening, that real friends don’t walk away from you and those who do aren’t real friends, and that “for everything you have lost, you have found something else.”

We cheapen our own lives, and those of others, when all we look for is the least expensive thing that suits our need or desire of the moment. We add value to our lives by valuing the work of others, valuing their time, and their abilities to craft a fine product that we can enjoy using for many years. When I wear my friend’s jewelry, I smile, and when others admire it, I have a story to share. When I take the time and make the effort to find the best quality for what I want, instead of just the cheapest price, I feel like I am valuing myself, the thing I am buying, and the people who made it. I can’t always afford the very best (and often price is no guarantee of quality, really), but even in making the effort, I have taken that step towards being aware of what went into what I’m buying, who benefits from it, and valuing myself and the other people involved as fully as possible.