We live in an area without a shopping center. If you go out looking for entertainment, you won't see brightly illuminated windows with hundreds and thousands of items you supposedly "need" to buy. There's a small food store where I go if we run out of milk during the week, a tiny pizza place we've never visited, a post office, and a goat farm.
The only sounds you will hear during the day are of children playing, or the distant humming of a washing machine. Rarely, a car will pass by. Often we are asked how we can live so far from the biggest and brightest. And yet we love it.
There's, of course, the undeniable fact that staying away from shopping centers actually saves you money. You can, of course, restrict yourself to window-shopping only, but this may become a cause of dissatisfaction when you discover more and more things you would want to buy, and see others buying them (most likely very few of them are real "needs" and the rest are "wants").
Most of all, we love the quiet, unhurried mode of life in our little community. In cities, you might not even know your neighbours. Here, neighbours will spontaneously knock on your door with a fresh home-baked cake. A couple of months ago, a lonely man we didn't know stopped us on our way and asked if he may join us for Shabbat dinner because it feels sad to spend Shabbat alone. We invited him, of course, and it makes me anxious to think of all the lonely people who suffer from lack of attention and company in cold, detached, perpetually hurrying urban surroundings.
What does this have to do with the fact that we rarely visit shopping centers, you ask? Not much, perhaps; it just makes me think of a world where people bought less, gave more, took better care of each other and had more time to spend together. A world where people were more relaxed and had more time for meaningful reflection. A world where hours, activities, thoughts, information and people didn't need to be brutally crammed in order to make good use of the time. I feel most of us have lost or never knew this world, and now dearly and painfully miss it.
In this world, less money was earned and spent, not thanks to some magical trick, maybe not even thanks to careful budgeting. People were simply content with less, and didn't work upon instant gratification. Thus, life was more relaxed. Instead of being isolated in cells of lonely existence for the sake of self-fulfillment, couples, families, generations and communities worked together.
... I realize this is not a very coherent post (baby brain... now it's official. :-) Bear with me). I would like to finish with a link to a website where you can read the book The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto. I started reading it yesterday and find it very enlightening - as you know I don't live in the United States, yet I find that John Gatto's voice holds many truths about the public schooling system in general. Just one quote:
Before you hire a company to build a house, you would, I expect, insist on detailed plans showing what the finished structure was going to look like. Building a child’s mind and character is what public schools do, their justification for prematurely breaking family and neighborhood learning. Where is documentary evidence to prove this assumption that trained and certified professionals do it better than people who know and love them can? There isn’t any.