In spite of all the edifying poetry I read and the orts of philosophy, I find that I’ve inherited my mother’s proclivity for “self-help”. Now my mother was quite insane about it. She paid a “Perfect Master” $250.00 for a weekend in which she had to wander in a large wooded farm in Connecticut and only had half a tangerine to eat the entire time. She parted with small fortunes to have her auras read and to have her horoscope charted. She had a psychic named Ella who was paid good money to assure my mother that she was the very most special victim in the world. My two year old son observed that my mother did not walk–she “ice-skated”. And indeed, without real skates, she skated off to places that would make her happy and was profligate with her money. Berkeley, California? She was there. In Prince Andrew’s village? There she was. Sedona, Arizona. Australia. She globe-trotted in search of perfect enlightenment.
And I do the same via library books although I am more in touch with economic reality than my mother was.
You have probably seen the books. You probably started with Mario Kondo and her “Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing”. You threw out a lot of things. You became so anxiously authoritarian that you did not realize that it was Marie Kondo, herself, who failed to “spark joy” in you and not your fountain pens, your warm nightgowns, and your old books.
Then it’s likely you discovered “Hygge” – The Danish Secret to Happy Living, which seems to be that you make your loved ones tea and cupcakes and put on a pair of warm sloppy socks. Your Hygge felt so good that you castigated yourself for succumbing to the Japanese art and the Danish way of happiness encouraged you to live in comfortable clutter. So you repurchased some of those things that Marie Kondo had suggested you get rid of. When Hygge was getting a bit—well, stuffy and too hot, you turned to “Lykke”, the Danish art of happiness.
When you are not bundled up in Hygge, you practice Lykke, which means that you are not merely comfy cosy, you are so happy that you leave the hygge of your home and travel the world pursuing that happiness. Because Happiness is like a massive treasure hunt. Say goodbye to your job; max out your credit cards, and then look for buried treasure in all the corners of the world. Lykke will come to you when you go to Uganda and cook a dinner for an alarmed family whose home you’ve decided to sprinkle and sparkle with your Lykke. Soon you will transform them into a Hygge family. Then it’s off to do more Lykke in the Andes and run off to China to play a tennis game with a random stranger. Who cares if you lose? You’ve got Lykke! Once you’ve gone bankrupt pursuing your Lykke a sobering choice awaits you: you can’t buy that airplane ticket to Galway to dance with the Lord of the Dance and his acolytes. Lykke has left you penniless.
Now it’s time for returning home and thinking of how to recover from your Lykke madness. It’s time to turn to Lagom: The Swedish Art of Balanced Living. There’s the ticket. Those common sense Swedes know when enough is enough. They have a King and Queen, but they ride bicycles and not state carriage. That is Lagom for you. “Not too little; not too much.” Moderation is key! The Swedes have a genetic proclivity for minimalism and they abhor clutter. But they don’t look for joy; they seek simplicity. And they find it in the six hour work day. The nice thing about Lagom is that you can have a couple of things in your house that are useful but that don’t necessarily spark joy.
After having entered into a state of Lagom you became more aware of your need to be frugal and minimalist, because your debts had mounted dangerously high from all your Kon-Maried possessions and your fling at Lykke.
Death Cleaning! It’s a Swedish “art”! You are encouraged to start death-cleaning in early middle age. Nowhere is it explained how “death cleaning” differs from other cleaning, although there’s a lot of reinforcement in the idea that we don’t want to stick other people with our death cleaning. It’s Marie Kondo, all over again, only this time you are not looking for joy—you are waiting to die.
I’ve got an exciting new initiative: The Finnish Bunker. The concept is that you hunker down into your own bunker, which never needs cleaning, and spend no money, throw out everything you can, and wait for death. In the Finnish Bunker there are no diets; there is no spending; there is no cleaning because there’s nothing to clean; news and newspapers cannot enter. And it pays tribute to one of the lesser known Scandanavian countries.