Rosicrucian Writings Online
THOUGHT OF THE MONTH
THE STANDARD OF LIVING
By THE IMPERATOR
[H. Spencer Lewis]
[From The Rosicrucian Digest April 1935]
WE HEAR many persons express themselves these days as desiring to try to keep up with "the standard of living" which is proper for persons of this time and age. Such persons mean to imply they are trying to live up to an arbitrary standard of living and that they find it difficult to do so because of the lack of money or the lack of other means. To them the depression has meant a reduction in their "standard of living" and they suffer under this.
We sometimes wonder what is meant by the modern standard of living and whether it is a higher standard than we had in the past. If we stop and think of it for a few moments the subject becomes more humorous than serious. Certainly in the Western World we have become much like a lot of sheep following a few leaders. We read the newspapers and magazines and accept the opinions of furniture experts, interior decorators, hygienic authorities and others, and believe that what they say represents the last word in the true art of living.
If we thumb through the magazines and see the pictures of modern bathrooms, kitchens, living rooms, and other parts of homes with the newest and most modern ideas of furniture, decorations, and equipment, we become convinced that what we now have is antiquated, ancient, and inadequate, and that we are not living in accordance with the "higher standards." We see pictures of beautiful automobiles flying along the highways with groups of happy passengers, and we read stories of long automobile tours and of airplane trips, and we begin to wonder whether our method of walking from place to place or riding in the trolley car or perhaps driving a horse and carriage are not so antiquated as to belong to the Middle Ages. We feel that we are way behind the times and not matching up to the modern standards. We see pictures of new forms of salad dressing, table decorations, marvelous ice boxes, frozen foods and canned goods. At once we begin to wonder whether the old time methods of making some bread and biscuits by hand and eating food that has been cooked in the old-fashioned way in the oven is not a part of an ancient form of life that passed out of existence thousands of years ago. We are tempted to believe what we read and to come to the conclusion that we are far behind the modern methods and modern standards.
If we try to keep pace with these modern things, we find ourselves constantly in a turmoil and no matter what our income may be we cannot make it meet the necessary expenses.
The United States undoubtedly leads the rest of the world in its fads and foibles and in its aggravating agitation for constant improvements of a non-essential nature. Despite what we may read in all of the modern literature regarding the absolute necessity in every home for an electrical ice box, and regardless of what we read about the necessity of having our food held at a certain temperature in order to maintain health, the fact remains that thousands upon thousands of people in this country are still living healthfully and happily without such electrical contrivances and our forbears succeeded very well in preserving their food and in living without these things. They are aids, they are helps, but they are luxurious things and not the absolute necessities which advertising and propaganda make them. There were millions of happy homes throughout the world some years ago that had no modern bathing facilities and a home that had a bathroom with running water was considered a very modern home. According to latest literature, every good home should have two and a half bathrooms and one of them should be in orchid color. Do things of this kind constitute the necessities for a proper standard of living? That is the important point.
We know very well that in the time of George Washington as President of the United States, there were held gorgeous balls and dances to which the most beautiful women of his time and acquaintance were invited. They dressed in a manner and acted in accordance with customs that represented the highest standard of living. Yet we are told that the average working girl of today in a department store or office dresses five times more magnificently than the most overdressed and gorgeously gowned woman that ever attended one of Washington's parties. The quality of the material, the nature of the styles, the other elements that enter into personal appearance have been advanced until what was the standard of living years ago is now so crude and so unacceptable that we are in a mad whirl trying to discover whether yesterday's rules and styles, fashions, and notes are active today or antiquated.
But it is surprising how all of us like to go back to the old homestead and to the old farm and find ourselves comfortable and truly "at home" amid the old surroundings. Here in the West where we have so many mountains and foothills, woods, and valleys, and places where isolation is possible, thousands of persons who have magnificent, modern, up-to-the-minute homes, also go and build log cabins or crude wooden shacks out among the redwood trees or along the banks of the river or ocean shore, to live through the summer in a situation that is more expressive of the "back to nature" idea than is possible in a modern home. And you will hear these persons say how glad they are to be able to pack up a trunk of plain clothing and to get away from their fourteen-room house or ten-room apartment and out into the little three-room bungalow or cabin and live a "natural life." You may think this is only typical of the "wild and woolly West," but you will find it expressing itself as an incident of human nature in every part of this North American continent.
Back in the larger cities in the East wealthy persons who can afford to do so build little bungalows on the top of apartment houses so that they can have a little garden and a little home that is typical of what was popular and represented the right standard of living a century or more ago, and in the hills and country-side places of every one of our States you will find the same desires being expressed.
And why is it that in every well-built home the masculine side of it insists upon having one room set aside as his den? And what do these dens represent? A return to the old standard of living. Most of them have wooden beam ceilings, crudely finished floors, and if large enough, an open fireplace. But they are small, secluded, and simple in furniture. The man who builds a house thinks he will have this den exclusively to himself where he can be separated from all of the fashionable activities and social foibles that may be carried on in the rest of the house. But human nature expresses itself and within a few weeks after the home is completed he finds that every member of the family wants to get in his den during the evening to read the paper and to sit around and talk, and the rest of the house remains in darkness unless there is a social function being carried on.
When we do have an opportunity to go back to the old homestead or farm where we enjoyed our youth, we love to get down on a little stool at the feet of grandma or mother and bury our heads in her lap and nestle close to her while she is dressed in an old-fashioned gingham gown, and maybe with an older fashioned gingham apron tied around her instead of the modern rubberized kind that represents only a small portion of what an apron should be. We still like to look in the fireplace and watch logs burning, to sleep under a tin roof or the shingle roof and hear the rain patter upon it. We do not mind having our milk brought to us directly from the cow and do not complain if it is not in a fancy glass bottle, pasteurized, and delivered by a white-uniformed man at three times the expense. We do not mind if our tomatoes are brought in from the garden with a little mud which we wash off and then eat the tomato without examining it under a microscope or insisting that it shall have been sterilized and carefully packed in vacuum sealed cans.
After all is said and done, the real standard of living is that which expresses our closeness to one another and to God. The spiritual and human values of life represent the only standards by which we can judge whether or not we are truly living a normal, natural life. The more we study and learn about the laws of nature and man's own personal powers and abilities, the less we become fascinated and enthralled by the superficial, artificial, unimportant frills and inventions of man's maniacal ingenuity.
Undoubtedly, there are scientific minds busily working at this very moment and thousands of persons staying awake and wasting their lives trying to invent new devices and new things that will almost eliminate the human emotions from our daily life, and they will proclaim their inventions and their ideas as representing the newer and higher standard of living.
It is interesting to note that every mystic and philosopher and student of great fundamental truths of life eventually seeks to dwell in a cave or a grotto for a time, or to separate himself from the mad world and find peace and happiness close to God and nature. This, after all, represents the true standard of life.
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