The Battle Between Sentimental Materialism and Rational Altruism

I had no clue what to write about today, so I was bugging some of my friends trying to come up with a topic. One of them, M. Mori, asked me an interesting question: why do people still buy so many books, when we could just read them digitally, which is much more eco-friendly? We're all well aware that things are really not that okay with our planet, yet we don't really do much to stop it – not even something that takes as little effort as reading a book digitally instead of a paper version.

I'm not going to bother writing a post about how this is bad and how we should all stop doing it, because I, myself, am seriously guilty of this – if you've been following my blog for a while, you probably know I have a serious book-buying problem. There is zero justification for me to buy any more books: my to-be-read pile contains at least a hundred books (and this is not even an exaggeration), so I did not really need anything new to read. My shelves are filled to the brim and there are even some piles of books on the ground, so it's not like I had any space to fill. Exams are coming up, so I will not even have time to read, and the book I bought is not even a particularly pretty one or rare one at all.

However, there is the argument of sentiment many book-buyers cling to – people who prefer material copies of books often defend themselves saying they like to have something to hold, something to write in, something that is there. Yet I think those people themselves know that the argument that these habits are killing our forests really trumps the fact that they just like the feel of a real book. Despite that, this doesn't stop them – nor does it stop me. As much as I care for our planet, I know in my heart that I will never stop hoarding books. Frankly, and this might sound a bit controversial, I don't think it inherently should.

My friend M. Mori agrees. As she so eloquently says: "These collections we build up, we can't deny they're vain. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity. We could be morally rigorous about it. Only go to the library, spend our money on charity; even more rigorous, don't even spend our time on books, but volunteer. The only things that keep us from doing so are social convention and personal vanity, sentimental bullshit.

Oh, we can save the world; but in the end it wouldn't be worth saving if it wasn't beautiful. We're all gonna die, and most of us won't leave a trace worth preserving. But to love something beautiful is a privilege. It's an opportunity life continually throws our way, and one we should grab firmly with both hands. No, not with both hands: with one wary hand. So we can use our second hand for things of practical use, to move about the world, to give others a hand.

So we should allow ourselves some sentimental purchases. To bask in a book's physical presence, putting it on shelves with pride, stopping mid-sentence while reading to examine the cover. But not to lose our footing in reality. Be rational about your vanities: allow yourself some pretty books, but don't buy a flashy sportscar. Take care of this beautiful world and appreciate its small, unfathomable beauties. Choose your illusions carefully; we'll be alright."

And on that note, dear readers, we will leave you to ponder over what will prevail.

  • L. Parole & M. Mori

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