Every weekend we attack the boxes and attempt to unpack a little more. But moving from a large house in the middle of nowhere to a small apt in the city entails abandoning most of your belongings. especially when you own at least one or more of everything in existence. You can’t think of a thing that’s not in these boxes. It’s an immobilizing endeavor. Entirely overwhelming. To pick and choose what to keep and what to give away.
After living out of just 4 suitcases for 4 years, we are absolutely stupefied and overwhelmed by how much stuff there is. We became very accustomed to not having anything. No stuff. Which affords a ton of free attention and creative energy. You’re free. And now we can barely walk from so much stuff. It feels as though the stuff is very important. You’ve collected it your whole life. Or it was gifted to you by people you love. It’s more than just stuff in that regard. It has incalculable value. Some of it. Yet now we question the true cost of keeping “things”. Versus living in a metropolitan city. That’s the core choice when it comes down to it. A very first world problem, granted.
It keeps occurring to me “what if a natural disaster just wiped all this out but we lived? Wouldn’t that make this all easier? If we just had no choice in the matter?” What’s ultimately important? This circling idea prompted me to give away my entire library of books CDs and vinyl. Tens of thousands. For those that know me well and knew my library, i did it…. every album ever released in the world since recorded music. Every book. Every movie. It was inevitable in the face of the new digital world we live in where we can access nearly everything from our cell phones.
Yes I know, it’s not the same. That’s true. It’s just not. Not the books, nor the albums. The experience leaves one cold and empty. Experiencing media digitally. Though I dont yet quite know why. But I gave it all away anyway. Because it’s an entire room of just a library. Of media. Hundreds of boxes. And rooms are preciously priceless in a city. If one has two bedrooms in NYC your friends exclaim “oh my God look at this place!” their mouth hanging open. Weird. But true. Kinda sad that we do it. Why do we do it? Who gives a f*^% if you live in a city or not?
I’m still mourning this huge release of my library. Palpable painful sadness. Shock. I keep reminding myself to consider the Russian oligarchs during the Bolshevik Revolution. They lost everything and fled with nothing. People do this. They endure much worse. It’s insane that that’s the thought that keeps me sane i think. I’m a monster. Stuff is just stuff. Who cares?
Life though… that’s everything. Living. Breathing. Pulsating. Life. Vietnam. WW II. Darfur. Syria. The images haunt me. I am brought to shame again and again by the wasted emotion and importance we afford to whether or not we keep a wedding present. Life is irreplaceable. But this… this is just a thing. The choice seems an essential one. City versus stuff. You simply can’t have both. One is forced to contend with it. It’s a private revolution. But self imposed. The importance imagined.
I harbor a secret longing for a war or catastrophe to come along and sort this out for us by destroying everything we own. To remind us what’s important in life. Which leads me to quietly acknowledge that I’ve already made the decision. I just haven’t fully integrated the emotional impact of the tradeoff. Which fills me with guilt and self hatred. Who mourns belongings in the face of so much chaos pain and suffering in the world around them?
I am reminded of Oscar Schindler. How much i related to him before his awakening. And how much i feared and dreaded the reality of his final day’s post-materialism. Post apocalypse. That raw flailing and unnerving humanity. Not getting it until it was too late. The Shakespearean tragedy of a life ill spent.
It’s not too late now though i think. It took me twenty-five years to get here. My god. Have i finally started to wake up? I have time to help more. To address more of the world’s pain and suffering. To be less selfish and shamefully material. To at least try. I am suddenly relieved. Lighter. More free attention. Priorities have fallen into place.
It is not too late for me yet. The war is not over. The holocausts have not entirely transpired. We’re in the middle of the film still. I can choose to change before the lights come up. Not wait until the very end. I’ve been terrified of this moment my entire life. But I’m not sure I can go back now.