Tuesday, 4 January 2022



"Luxury isn't owning Rolls Royces, or having the royal suite on the Olympic, but not having to do something you don't much want to do." 

~ novelist Josephine Tey, quoted in her biography


Peter Cresswell said...

The perceptive quote above appeared in a letter to a friend. She said it again, differently, in her later novel Brat Farrar... "Riches, my boy, don't consist in having things, but in not having to do something you don't want to do. And don't you forget it. Riches is being able to thumb your nose."

MarkT said...

I agree luxury isn’t excessive consumption or the latest and greatest possessions. I also relate to the last sentence - being able to thumb your nose, because luxury is about having options.

But I don’t think that “not having to do something you don’t want to do” (and then not doing it) is something you should aspire too. Human progress and satisfaction comes from pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and doing something you may not want to do in the moment, but leads to longer term satisfaction. For instance, sometimes the last the last thing I feel like doing first thing in the morning is my regular high intensity workout, but I do it anyway because I know I’ll feel better the whole day if I do, and that’s worth the 20-30 minutes of hard work and discomfort. If your pursuit of luxury is a quest to avoid these moments of discomfort, I see this as similarly misguided as a quest to always have the latest and best Rolls Royce.

Penn & Teller had a great episode on this topic in their ‘Bullshit’ series called ‘The Best’ - showing how the latest and ‘best’ possessions don’t bring us lasting happiness.

Ex Navy Seal David Goggins has written an excellent biography titled ‘Don’t Hurt Me’ showing how discomfort is something you should actively seek.

Integrating these two concepts, I’d say that luxury is not having to do something you don’t want to do and derive no net benefit from, freeing up your time for those activities you derive the most benefit from - including subjecting yourself to discomfort on your own terms.

MarkT said...

Correction: the David Goggins book I recommend is called ‘Can’t Hurt Me’.

It’s theme has some similarities to the philosophy of Stoicism (suffering is good), but I think Objectivists tend to give Stoicism an unfairly bad rap. The best Stoics such as Marcus Aurelius, and perhaps you can even put Jordan Peterson in this camp don’t believe that suffering per se is valuable, but that growth and satisfaction can only come if you’re prepared to suffer in the short term, to achieve higher values in the long term.