Last night I play a video game called Ghost of Tsushima on the Playstation.
You are a samurai, but you are breaking your code. Your code says: Live with Honor. Honor is everything. Do not disgrace your family, your house, your Samurai teachings. They are sacred.
And yet, you find that you must break your code to live. If you do not, the evil Monguls will destroy everything you know — your villages and towns and forges, your communities, even you.
So you adapt. You learn to do things no real Samurai would ever do. Creep in the darkness, strike without warning, a ghost in the night leaving trails of bodies.
It works. You are more effective as a warrior this way, alternating between Samurai and Assassin modes depending on the situation. But you bring shame to your father and family, who reject you for what you are doing — for who you have become.
I push buttons on the controller and move the Samurai around on the screen. I wonder where in the real world, exactly, is the second half of the caramel treat that I’d been eating. It must be somewhere on the couch but I don’t know where. In the game, I enter a village, I sneak around the outskirts, I murder Monguls with a short blade and hide the bodies. I do this, more or less, for three hours.
At times it is exciting and I’m engrossed — it’s a sort of puzzle game at times. You have to determine the order in which to dispatch guards so that they do not see you kill them — if Guard A is watching Guard B and Guard C is watching Guard A, but no one is watching Guard C, then the order of death goes: C, A, B. You scout their movement patterns, make a decision, and start the chain of virtual death. The animations are punchy, visceral, a quick slash of the throat, the sounds convincing, a stifled yell, rustling of bushes as you retreat back into cover. This is what they call a Triple A game — it cost over a hundred million dollars to produce, more than many big-budget action movies — and it shows.
Toward the end of the playing session I grow bored. The game is flashy and the setting — feudal Japan — felt exciting and fresh for a while but it’s already becoming ho-hum. My wife notices that there is a caramel stuck to her sweater and wonders how it got there. She sat on the couch next to me to scroll instagram while I play. yeah oops, I say. She laughs.
But later, at night, she’s mad. You ruined my sweater.
I’ll clean it, I say. It should come out.
She goes to sleep unconvinced.
In the night, my brain spins. I think about how I used to be frugal but now I spend a lot of money on bullshit. At one point, in my past, I wrote a blog about this lifestyle — about frugality.
I’m breaking the frugal code, I think. The code of the cheap. I broke it — I am cheap sometimes but spend a lot of money on bullshit that I don’t need at others. I will occasionally spend $400 a night on a fancy hotel — for a single night of what? Sleeping? — because my wife appreciates it, because it’s a change of pace. I will buy a replacement for something that breaks instead of trying to fix it.
This is the real reason I don’t blog anymore. I don’t want to stand up in front of the gatekeepers of the community and tell them I broke their code, that this lifestyle doesn’t work all the time. I don’t want to tell everyone, look, hey, spending money is actually a lot of fun. Not having to worry too much about where your dough is going is a relief and a pleasure. It frees up space in your brain to think about other things, like whether Batman could really be competitive with Superman in an actual fight.
The Code of Frugality is a lie. It’s time for a new code — the code of Spending when it’s Fun and Practical. Being cheap for the sake of saving a few bucks — denying yourself pleasure — thinking about nickel and diming — it’s really no way to live.
I decide that I either need to write a new post in the next month or two, or delete my blog entirely, so I can move on with my life. If I delete the blog, I can become a true ghost — the Ghost of the frugal retire-early community.
When we finally wake up, my wife asks about the sweater.
I’ll fix it today, I said. And if I can’t, I’ll buy a replacement.
Perfect, she says. But no more caramels on the couch, ok?
Yes, Sensei, I say using a certainly very offensive Japanese accent.
She laughs and I know we are OK.