I just bought a new bicycle. It wasn’t really the bicycle that I lusted or desired for in terms of appearance or speed, but, according to the helpful owner of the bike shop, it was the most practical for commuting. This decision was against my usual instincts.
It struck me that “being practical” is a concept that is used to rationalise a lot – but not all – of our decisions. A decision to take a job that you don’t like is often explained on the basis that it is the “practical” thing to do. A bland or unhealthy meal is often the easiest option available.
None of the above is particularly notable or unexpected. The valorisation of rationality in our society makes a practical choice generally an unimpeachable choice. The idea that interests me, however, are the areas of our lives where the “practical” choice is not the most common choice.
A recent example is the hype and noise surrounding the launch by Apple of the new MacBook Pro with a Retina Display. Many people, including myself, are presently lusting after these computers. However, with a price tag of A$2499 and more pixels than the human eye can see, it is hardly a “practical” computer, it is possibly the “best” computer. Likewise, many people desire the “best” cars, bicycles and houses, and demand the “best” behaviour of politicians and celebrities, whilst accepting what is “practical” in terms of their own happiness, attitudes and behaviours.
I am far beyond reproach, but in an attempt to be better, slowly, I am trying to be less practical when it really matters, and vice versa.