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My Year of Buying Nothing

That time I answered questions from the audience (Part I)

By Lee Simpson

I remain an admirer of Carol Burnett — that witty woman of television and stage who kept us laughing at life, starting in 1959. That she was also a courageous person has only recently been apparent to me: she answered questions on The Carol Burnett Show directly from her studio audience and in front of millions of viewers. This week, seven months into my Year of Buying Nothing (YBN), I am fulfilling a pledge to my editor to answer questions and comments that have come to me online and through traditional media. Deep breath, here goes! I remain hidden behind my laptop while you read my responses, unlike brave Carol.

Q Why are you really doing this? It seems like showing off.

A I dealt extensively with my reasons for a YBN (except food) in the introductory blog. They are environmental and spiritual, not to mention a payback for my marketing of unnecessary products in the past. Those who pose this question are looking for something more, so I'll deal with what I suspect is underlying it: "You must be getting something out of this," they're likely thinking to themselves. And I am, but maybe not what you expect.

Fame? Yes, I have given lots of interviews, but it wasn't the stuff of red carpets and autographs, was it? The women at the bank in town once asked how things are going, and there have been incidents with people poking my produce in the grocery store. “What is she not buying today?”

Fortune? Yes, I am reimbursed with an honorarium for this blog. And while I am indeed grateful, believe me, I am not doing this for the United church's big bucks. So, yes, I`ll freely admit it: I am showing off! I'm illustrating that I can live without facial tissue; that I won’t die a social misfit if I wear grey sweat socks with patent leather flats, and that my family will forgive me if I write heartfelt notes and cook their birthday presents instead of gifting them with more stuff. A big deal this is not. But that's precisely the point: you could do this, too.

Q If we all did this, the Canadian economy would collapse (Okay, it’s a comment, but Carol would have responded.).

A Yes. It might topple, which I think would be pretty darn terrific because I believe this economy could afford to fall and rise again a little leaner and straighter. This isn't really an issue, however, given that few people will do this for a year, a month or even a week. But we could try for a single day, couldn’t we, just to establish that we are indeed citizens, not consumers, of Canada?

Q If everyone stopped buying books, wouldn’t they cease to be published?

A Yes and no. Brace yourselves, readers: publishers and libraries are reinventing themselves as we type. Yet reading of everything seems to be up. After all, life is change: if God brings you to it, God brings you through it. I once found that phrase unbearably trite. Of course, I`m older now.

Part 2 of Lee's responses to readers' questions will be published on Aug.15.

Rev. Lee Simpson is a writer in Lunenburg, N.S. New posts of YBN will appear every other Friday. You can also check out a short documentary about Lee at http://www.ucobserver.org/video/2014/04/ybn/.
Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
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