Thrift has gotten a bad name. How about we redeem the word, the practice and the values that support it? Let’s just return to the dictionary definition.
1.Care and wisdom in the management of one’s resources
2.A flourishing condition; vigorous growth
Thrift has the same etymology as thrive, thus the “vigorous growth”. So when and why did our language change the connotative usage of “thrift” to mean cheap, thread bare and stingy? We can conjecture together but I imagine it was about the same time as the person who coined “leftovers” was referring to the food we should just throw away. Lavish disposal of excess became the benchmark of the prosperous. If I can waste more than you, then, apparently I’m financially better off than you and by odd extension, smarter. My personal insecurity is socially buoyed by the ludicrous act of limitless waste. When any of us stop to think for a moment, understanding waste as a sign of self love is clearly outside the bounds of any kind of sense yet the practice endures. Other than being a so much simpler option than ACTUALLY loving ourselves the mindset finds a well defended refuge in our western practice of capitalism. Our national economy thrives on waste. The more we use, the more we buy, the more is made, more jobs, more… vigorous growth. Is that a paradox? Have you seen Annie Leonard’s “The Story of Stuff.”? (20 minutes well spent)
Is it vigorous growth? Our culture has been captivated by a dark, descending spiral of belief. A return to living lives of thrift can pull us out, like Puddleglum stamping out the fire under-girding the witch’s spell in Lewis’s “The Silver Chair”. We are a spellbound nation in need of strong magic to free us from the bondage of waste and limitlessness. Thrift recognizes limits: limits of our desires(contentment), limits of our consumption (referred to as a sufficiency), acknowledged limits of the natural world (ecologically sustainable). We will find that living within limits will be paradoxically freeing. That’s a paradox I can champion. If I were a bumper sticker person, mine would say “Restraint Is The New Freedom”.