What do misers do? Like idolaters, they hoard objects that stand in for their heart’s true desire. Instead of valuing the potential, the miser continually craves gold even while grasping it, confusing it for an end in itself rather than a symbol of purchasing power.
We are not Scrooge or Silas Marner -- but similar tendencies on a smaller scale are normal.
In Petrarch’s fourteenth-century sequence of sonnets, the speaker tries to possess his beloved’s beauty as an end in itself that conforms to what he wants in the moment. For this, he calls himself a “miser.” He also calls his superficial approach to nature “miserly.”
The opposite extreme of this grasping at exterior trophies is a Puritan mistrust of all objects of desire enjoyed by the senses. This extreme tries to bypass human senses in order to commune directly with a “higher truth” that is elusive.
It’s good to be aware of these extremes. For example, does a friend or lover cease to please when they don’t conform to our notions about their place and meaning? If travelling to Paris or Seville, do we only want photos and interactions that fit our preconceptions of those places? Do we nourish our desires with these symbols alone?
It’s important and healthy to savor sights and experiences for their outward charms, like a tourist. Transcendence occurs by passing through, and not over, these experiences.
Enjoy the packaged vacation and the photo of the bullring -- but allow for mystery, challenge, and personal change.
I’m Bill Gahan, and that’s my perspective.