AM Inspiration: Midweek Simplicity - The Particular Dignity of Soap

Wednesday--the middle of the hectic workweek--seems like a good day to regularly honor the virtue of simplicity. Today's post is about a pet cause of mine: soap. Not that I'm against soap, by any means, but in my lifetime I've witnessed such growth in the personal care products industry that the number of products considered necessary to maintain one body have probably doubled. Not to say that there haven't been improvements: we can now choose more natural products, though these are often more expensive. My problem is with this unnecessary variety and specialization, with walking down the aisle and starting to feel like I really need different kinds of moisturizer and several expensive hair products, simply because they exist.

Moving through modern stores with their overwhelming variety is a little like hearing the goblins selling their wares in Christina Rosetti's Goblin Market:

"We must not look at goblin men,

We must not buy their fruits:

Who knows upon what soil they fed

Their hungry thirsty roots?"

Even the greenest product is better left unbought if it's not really needed. While I'm not of the school that believes you should take care of all bodily necessities with Dr. Bronner's soap, just because you can, it is a personal challenge to avoid the siren call of fancy products that lend a moment's luxury to my life. Giving in to the lure of packaging, greener-than-thou claims, and a base desire for novelty is a too-easy victory for all those parties that benefit from impulse consumption. Particularly suspect is any product for the body which claims to also meet the needs of the spirit--relaxation, centeredness, energy. One compromise is looking at beauty supply stores for their excellent and cheap selection of natural soaps--coconut, shea butter, olive oil, and more. A careful reading of the label will get you an uncomplicated bar of soap for a few dollars. It seems to be human nature to use too much soap in its liquid form, so diluting shampoo and other liquid cleanliness products can help fight the urge to use more than the small amount truly necessary.

There's a good reason for the proliferation of personal care products...even in its simplest form, soap is magical. And there is no one better to express this magic than French poet and essayist Francis Ponge, who wrote an entire work called Soap.

"Soap is a sort of stone, but not natural: sensitive, susceptible, complicated. It has a particular sort of dignity. Far from taking pleasure (or at least passing its time) in being rolled about by the forces of nature, it slips between their fingers, it melts before the eyes, rather than let itself be unilaterally rolled about by water.

Such a voluminous, pearly slobber consisting of so many clusters of plethoric bubbles, the hollow grapes, the scented grapes of soap. Agglomerations. It gobbles the air, it gobbles the water all over your fingers... The power is in the hands of soap to make our own willing, complaisant to use water, to abuse water in its least details."

Tags: Consumer, Green products, Luxury, Personal care, Shampoo, Shopping, Soap, Thrift

« Back to Blog



Connect with Us