Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Little by little

When I moved out of the Banana Republic, the last house I shared with my wife, I took a very full apartment-full of stuff. We had so much stuff that no one noticed. If someone noticed I was gone, she told them for several months after the separation that I was at work for, rather than share the truth. Before Lin and I moved to Santa Fe, we had a garage sale and sold what seemed like a lot of stuff, but there was still a very full very packed moving truck required to transport our earthly posessions to New Mexico.

In New Mexico, I continued to accumulate stuff. There were vestments and magic paraphernalia for each season, pottery for each season, very colourful clothes, and books. Always more and more books. But I didn't know from stuff until I met Lore Guldbeck. I mentioned before that she had a house in Rio Chama so full she had had to leave. She lived in her truck until she found an apartment, a two-bedroom which quickly filled. One bedroom was entirely full. There was a path through the clothes to her bed in the other bedroom, and a path to the washer and dryer in the garage. The public rooms were more than usually full, but not so much as to suggest what lay behind closed doors. Only when she called me in panic asking to 'be rescued' did I learn the full extent of her hoarding.

Lore hoarded partly, I think, to compensate for her losses when she left Germany, but partly because of her generosity. She had people categorized by what gifts they liked to receive. There was one man, James Cameron, who received soap. A piano-playing friend received musical note knick-knackery. There was a cat woman. The problem was that there was so much that she could never get to the stash and had to buy fresh gifts whenever there was an actual occasion for giving. In the process of 'rescuing her'--she was going to be inspected by the trust that provided the apartment at reduced rates for old folks--I found the magazine that I had lent her when we first met. She still wanted it. She had not yet read it.

Perhaps I have over-reacted to such abundance, which to me seemed to symbolize the abundance of modern industrial life, when just about anything one wants is just one click from being at one's door in two days, but I have tried to thin out my ballast ever since. I felt pretty good once when Lore introduced me to a friend as 'Dale--he doesn't want anything'. But of course I do want things. I have a lot of things. Little by little, however, I have abandoned thinking that things are scarce and hard to come by and realize that, for fat, rich Americans like myself, they're easy to come by.

I arrived in Northwest Arkansas two and a half years ago with the bag in the picture full of stuff and no more. After a garage sale and a give-away, I still had a box to ship in addition to that bag when I came back to the Paciic Northwest. Some of that stuff I've already thrown or given away. Sometimes I call this the shooting-myself-in-the-foot syndrone. But little by little, I have come to realize that, as a Facebook meme suggests, it's better to spend one's money on experiences than on things. At the same time, I think McLuhan was right that our things are an extension of ourselves, and allow us to experience the world differently. Little by little I've come to value the experience I had through my kayaks without having to keep a kayak. Little by little I've come to value the experience I had through my XBox without having to keep a kayak. Little by little I've come to enjoy the present big thing without it prejudicing me too much against the next great thing.

Which I think might be a drone.

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