Posted on 8 Jul ’10
I was out with a friend having dinner in the city one evening last week. After we ate, we decided to walk around a bit. We were walking through an alley while discussing architecture, photographing interesting buildings as we’d passed. When we emerged from the alley, onto Market street, I noticed this scene to our right. The clothing boutique below, the gym above, the sole woman exercising, both encased in the glass and steel of an artificial environment. I thought about the disproportionate value placed on wearing the right size, the right label, looking the right way. I thought about how television, periodicals, advertising, etc. all work in controlling the reinforcement of these as societal values. I thought about how absurd and pointless it is that in many ways I have lived and toiled with the express purpose of acquiring inanimate objects. Things, completely devoid of sentience, incapable of not only knowing but caring whether they are acquired. Ultimately, any satisfaction derived by the acquisition is short lived and hollow. Yet that process – pursuit of fixed object, acquisition, dissatisfaction – continues time and again.
I came across this photograph again yesterday and it stimulated the same thought process. Coincidentally, I am currently reading a book which also touches on the topics of fixed objectives and acquisition as a goal in and of itself; and how destructive these can be in life. In addition, yesterday afternoon I read an article Karen shared with me which spoke even more pointedly about minimalism and the motivators which lead to the acquisition of unnecessary objects resulting in the clutter effect. Admittedly, I am a pack-rat and have been for a long time. Though, in the past several years an increasing desire to diminish my, to me irrational, need for unnecessary material goods has been developing. The nice to haves, trappings of success which I have spent time acquiring and collecting – most sit unused for the duration of their time in my possession. The meaning of the lifestyle, the process, and the items themselves has become lost to me. A shift in values, an altered perspective, a realization that being is more important than having – I’m not entirely sure. It has been a slow transition, the change happened without conscious effort and simply was one day. The process of releasing all of the things which have been gathered over the years is not as easy as I would like. I still struggle with some inner part of me placing a disproportionate value on things of which I then find myself unable to dispose.
It is a cyclic process, where I go through things; dispose of some, keep some. In the next cycle some thing which I was unable to part with on the previous iteration, I am now able to let go and dispose of appropriately. I feel now that objects and things are tools. As such, they must play some demonstrable role in life – whether or not that role is to improve is arbitrary. The thing must have an explicit purpose and be used frequently. Granted there are things we all keep around which are used infrequently – extension cords are a good example. But, I most certainly do not need five or six of them; one heavy duty and one lightweight ought to suffice. Papers, books, tools, clothing, containers filled with wires, connectors, and electronics, etc. All because they might be needed, were once part of an active hobby, or have some rationalization attached to them disguised as sentimental value. It struck me at first to be a very consumerist perspective to dispose and re-acquire necessary items as a way to minimize. But, I believe that to be a short-lived way of approaching things and ultimately one ends up with only what one needs not in an endless loop of purge and purchase. Obviously I am not a minimalist, I’m going that route but, am hardly there as of now. I’m not sure I will be able to go all the way but, I do intend to make a more than significant dent in all the crap I’ve acquired. More importantly, strive to make the necessary adjustments and corrections to my life course which will ensure that acquisitiveness is not my way of life.