Monday, April 17, 2006

mad musings

try this on for size:

a society/culture/cult? that requires of its members that they renounce worldly goods for a certain period of time and make their way in the world by begging. after which, they can choose to rejoin the society, following some appropriate ceremony.

okay, the words "renounce worldly goods" carry too much judeo-christian baggage. what I'm after here is a cultural requirement of its members that they learn a deep and (it is to be hoped) transformative lesson about the transient and distracting nature of material wealth and possessions. and perhaps something about humility along the way.

I am led to this line of thought by an examination of my own relationship to material goods. I find myself clinging to some items and having near-complete disregard of others in my possession. I find it repugnant (or terrifying?) to acquire and own, say, a sofa (such a sign of settlement), yet I think that, when next I move, I must find somewhere to store my dining table and chairs. is that because I had the table built to order and therefore feel some misplaced financial obligation to keep it? I sometimes tell myself it's because I fear I'll never make enough money again to buy such an extravagance. or is it some clutching, possessive, acquisitive urge to own something?

but I could more easily part with the table and chairs than with certain memorabilia. are such items just embodied memories? why not keep the memories and discard the items?

I'm thinking along these lines as I consider my near future. another move seems likely. and I hate moving. getting rid of stuff seems like a good idea at such times. the last couple moves I made were emotionally traumatic. one, because I had been in one place for five years--- longer, I realized, than I had been at any single address since late childhood--- and another, because I didn't have a clear vision for my immediate future.

I'm getting off-subject. I think perhaps material goods, possessions, are more of a trap to us than we care to admit. we get settled, we hunker down, we surround ourselves with stuff--- and even the most judiciously acquired items, even the ones we've pored over and considered thoughtfully vis a vis efficiency and economics and environmental rectitude and a host of other criteria we often apply to our purchases merely to assuage a lingering sense of guilt at acquiring them. what if the guilt is a message? guilt, I once learned, it an offshoot or, or associated with, shame, which is a psychological condition that serves a cultural/society function: to identify transgressions of the culture's moral or ethical code. when I heard that, it was a light bulb moment: oh, guilt and shame are useful! yes, of course they should be examined--- good thing we have (occasionally) rational minds, eh?--- but they are tools for our enlightenment.

I tease myself with the notion (quite a bit, lately) of getting rid of everything, all material goods--- even the most sentimental of memorabilia. (could I do it?) and then hitting the road. traveling. with no particular destination in mind. I mean, it would be easy enough, given my life of minimal responsibilities, to store stuff and travel for a while, see the country or other lands. but I find that I keep trying to make the idea more challenging and intriguing by following the small impulse to do it for real. no holds barred, no furniture stored. just a vehicle, a tent, a sleeping roll, and some cash. or maybe not even all of those.......


At 4/18/2006 9:59 PM, Blogger Ernest said...

Just a few thoughts:

1) stuff matters more if you use it. That lovely dining-room table ferinstance. Perhaps you should make a vow that, if you keep it, you'll have guests over for dinner at least once a month. The glory of a good dining room table is the shared food and laughter which center around it.

2) If you really want to chuck all and hit the road, you're still young enough to do it.

3) Regarding things in storage -- if you can't find it you don't own it.

4) Ownership is for sure a huge illusion. We don't really own stuff so much as control it for a while. So pick which things you want to continue to control.


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