So I was on a wee day off today. Doing the usual, lying in my pit. My phone rang, a kind of unusual experience here, I get used to having things planned and my social circle is inevitably quite small so there’s not much phone action.

And it was my landlord, well not my landlord, the rental agency who are managing the tenancy for the owners. The owners are back in town and want to see the place (I don’t think they’ve seen it since they bought it), and would next week be OK. Of course (I’ll not be here I’ll be off in the mountains).

And then she asked how I was enjoying the place and did I like the ‘lifestyle’ here. I answered yes of course and the call ended. But the question hung with me, was I enjoying the ‘lifestyle?’ Made me think about what exactly my lifestyle here is and what maybe it’s expected to be and what it should be.

The escape from the urban centres in NZ is to places termed ‘lifestyle blocks’, big houses in the country with some land so you can play at the country life. ‘Lifestyle’ is marketable and way of life. I live in a flash block of apartments that’s only just opened. It’s got a swimming pool and a gym and is the type of place where ‘young professionals’ live. It is not the type of place I would have expected myself to be. Gyms and young professionals aren’t quite me. Yet of course I can’t escape that I am a young professional, my distaste for the lifestyle is all the more acute cause I know I’m a part of it, no matter what I might think.

The ‘lifestyle’ the woman on the phone expected from me is what the pictures looked like on the brochure for this place. Young, beautiful people (me of course…) relaxing on balconies in the sun with sunglasses and glasses of wine with some others relaxing by the pool below and women returning form shopping trip with bags of shoes. The Ikea nesting instinct (refer to fight club for the reference) being paramount. This is not something I normally respond to kindly. If only for the fact that it appeals to me so much – well apart from the shoes.

‘Peace, reassurance, pleasure are the good I seek’, wrote CS Lewis in a disturbingly honest poem. At heart I’m the same. The heart of man is deceitful above all things. I need no reminder of that.

But all my pious, self-righteousness aside, I’m still here. I’m still in a flash flat paying more for my rent than I do anything else. The fact that I don’t have a duvet cover and a 10 quid vacuum cleaner doesn’t change that. The seductiveness of the opportunities available is all around me. Why bother with mortality, guilt, justice and pain when you have Sky and 40 channels. Why bother with beauty, truth and love when you’ve got a nice leather sofa (that I’m sitting on as I type) and you’ve got some lovely walking boots for 80 quid (which I’ve just bought and feel rather guilty about, hence the blog, salvation through confession is a dubious principle….)

It is perhaps true that the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was to convince the world he didn’t exist, and that the masses of western civilisation are unknowingly suffocating in a fantasy world of denial, self-justification and self-worship. But then I am vulnerable only to that which is common to all men. ‘Peace, reassurance, pleasure, are the good I seek’ remains true for me, but all too often forgotten.

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April 2007

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