Sunday, October 23, 2011

My World and Worldly Goods

More in the "Lust for Stuff" Series...

What Would I Miss If I Lost “Everything”?

If my possessions were a blank slate, how would I fill it?
I met a Bernie Madoff victim yesterday. He didn’t lose everything, but he lost a lot. I can’t really relate, because I've never had to part with any kind of high-level materialism—no high-end sports car, no plane, no house on the ocean.
Regardless of the price tag on stuff, however, parting with it can be hard. I know because I haven’t been very successful ridding myself of it—I remain inundated with stuff. I have a house full of it in Florida and yet more in my MA house (although that amount was subject to a severe clearing last summer).
I have a picture of myself as being free and light should I ever purge most of my stuff. I wondered how the man who lost so much felt, so I asked him, “Do you miss the stuff?” His answer surprised me: “Yes.” When we got down to details, he admitted what he missed most was being able to cruise into the Apple store at any time and get a new gadget. I have no fondness for gadgets, electronic ones in particular, because for the most part, they make my brain hurt. It also was interesting that he didn’t miss other stuff so much as having the choice to indulge in it. I get that part, the wanting, but checking the bank balance and saying, “No, not this time.”
Of course, being the compare-and-contrast type of person I am, throughout the evening and into this morning, I have pondered my stuff, what I want, what I really care about, what I would miss if I “lost everything.” This relates to stuff, physical, material items, not personal relationships, which are so different as to not even be included in this discourse.
I thought of my possessions as a blank slate: Nothing there. Whenever the whiteboard in my kitchen is cleaned, that blank slate doesn’t last long. Someone fills it with a word, a note, a drawing, song lyrics, a quotation. If my material life became a blank slate, how would I fill it? What would I want right away?
I came up with a few things beyond the obvious such as a place to eat, sleep, and bathe and clothes to wear.

1.     Paper and pens. Life would be empty if I couldn’t write.

2.     Flour, yeast, sugar, and an oven to bake bread. Bread is so easy to make (for me), it’s nutritious, and filling. If I can make bread, I don’t think I would ever go hungry.

3.     Garden space, even if it’s ever-so-small. I nourish myself in a few ways, writing, baking bread, and growing things. Even if I had a large terra cotta pot and a straggling spider plant to nurture, I am certain I could endure.

4.     Books. Books are easy to acquire—I know because I have hundreds of them. Yard sales, libraries, thrift shops abound with them. I will always have books.

My list of necessities is short. As I look around me, I see so much in excess of those necessities and wonder how much of my life I spend tending for them, and what, just what, I would do, if I didn’t have them, even those that I obviously enjoy. Perhaps in the days and weeks to come as I navigate what I have, what I want, and what I need, I can come closer to the necessities in my daily life and further away from the stuff—even the stuff that I like.

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