The last few months have seen me launch on this blog quite a few features, including the relaunch of a product review feature. It’s been a slow start, to say the least, but purposefully so; after all, this is not just a feature in which I review products the way typically seen on blogs. Rather, I’m trying to do something completely different: to review products from the unique perspective of trying to live a life of service to humankind and of constant personal development, both spiritual and material. So unsurprisingly, there isn’t a commonly accepted “best practice” in place yet on which I can inspire myself!
In my initial post about this feature, I explained that its main focus is to gain insight on how to balance out both material and spiritual progress. My current understanding is that the material world is meant to be enjoyed while we are working on our personal spiritual development and while we contribute to the development of our communities. This seems to require, as I wrote in a post dating back to 2013, a profound change in the way we perceive the material world. “We should work, and strive to be excellent at whatever job we have and use both the salary we earn and the skills we learn to contribute to the physical, material, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being of our communities.”
So how do we change our perspective? How do we know if we need something or if we just want it? What is the line, where should it be drawn? Is the line the same for everyone, or does it vary from person to person? These are a few of the questions I feel a product review on this blog needs to answer in order to create its framework.
So much for just jumping into reviews!
I already started setting this framework up, the initial version of which is currently available on my About page. Based on its seven elements, I have developed a wordier framework presented below. It’s far from a complete one and you will no doubt find many gaps and even holes in it, but it makes for a “minimum viable framework” that I can use as a starting point. Let me know which gaps and holes you would like to me to address in the next iteration of this framework!
First Element of the Framework
A lifestyle focused on service is one that dignifies the person and the community; that is to say, being clean and wearing clothes that are not threadbare, sloppy, or undignified to be able to do justice to your inherent inner nobility as a spiritual being. It also means that your living space should be clean, organised, dignified, and beautiful, so that your surroundings reflect your inner nobility as a spiritual being. Product reviews should reflect the usefulness of various items in achieving the goal of reflecting one’s inner nobility as a spiritual being.
Second Element of the Framework
Now the trick is that all of the above—threadbare, sloppy, undignified, clean, organised, dignified, beautiful—are very subjective. So any product review has to reflect that subjectivity—I will have to explain why I find a product well suited or not to someone who is trying to live a life centered on spirituality. I will also have to stay away from imposing a certain specific lifestyle; for example, not being materialistic doesn’t mean being minimalist, or having a beautiful home doesn’t mean having a luxurious home.
Third Element of the Framework
Developing spiritually manifests itself in part by personal, private moments (prayer, reflection, deepening) and ones based on developing relationships with others (through service). I can have a beautiful living space that suits me personally but wouldn’t give me the option to open it up for service-related reasons (think of a house filled with unprotected crystal decorative items being opened to a group of small children…) So all product reviews should attempt to reflect the relationship between personal and community development—i.e. does the product only help me, only help the community, or helps both? This also could potentially mean delving into ethical issues.
Fourth Element of the Framework
One cannot claim to be a spiritual being and not attempt, as much as possible, to pursue the cause of justice. We have often been told that a simple but efficient way to do so is to ‘vote with our money’—that is to say, to pay for the things that reflect the most what we believe in. Product reviews should attempt to discuss how ethical the process of getting said item to us is, from where the raw products came from to how they were transported and the conditions of the store in which they were purchased.
It’s funny that, as I am putting the finishing touches on this post, I can’t help but wonder when I am going to be reviewing this entire framework; when will I have enough experience using it to be able to adjust it as needed? I guess you and I will both find out together, when I am inspired to write another framework-related post rather than a product review!