Saturday, May 30, 2015

My Relationship to My Stuff

My relationship to my stuff is changing. I've only lived in my present home for 15 years but it already has a lot of stuff in it I no longer notice and will never use again,  What I'm learning is how passing on stuff is not only challenging but deeply rewarding.

I have always felt inspired when the burden of my stuff is lightened. Now I’m pondering the future of hundreds of pieces of music, the compilations of classical piano, choral vocal, popular vocal and music theory and pedagogy. To post these on the web for sale would take another lifetime. Yet what a treasure trove for someone that appreciates such things. Office supplies and CD's the same. Many files the same: full of things that caught my interest, but that I can no longer easily read. And what about my library - full of fascinating books about the first peoples here in North America, about heart-aware business wisdom, about conflict resolution, about our way of being in the world, poetry, history, music - books that have helped shape me? What about the pleasure guests derive from finding a good book to read when they come and my pleasure in their pleasure? All this in context of the reality that reading is increasingly difficult for me.

I've come to appreciate that stuff seems to come to life when it is noticed and appreciated. The saddest place I've ever seen was a certain self-storage operation in Oakland, California. The bays in this place were filled not with surplus inventory (think retail) nor with bulky records (think banks and law firms), but with personal items belonging to individuals that no longer paid them any mind. It was as if the whole place was crying. The managers reported that after a year or two people often stopped paying rent so that their items were then offered for sale to at least partially satisfy the owner’s obligation. When I pass my stuff along, I'm giving it another chance at life in a way.

My real pleasure is to see someone else enjoying what I'm passing along - whether by gift or by sale. It's as if I'm giving a gift to my stuff that for so long served me. It is a delight. I first noticed this when giving away clothes in one of our annual clothing swaps or clothing sales. And others whose clothes I'm now wearing respond the same way. My wardrobe is constantly refreshed with clothing others have passed on and I love it. I've never liked shopping, but really love the good fellowship and pleasure of being among women friends in our skivvies, trying on clothes and getting and giving encouragement or a “nope, not for you."

This sort of sticky preservation urge seems to have ancestral roots: there are things I've hung on to for my children and grandchildren. My children have no interest. What hope is there that the grandchildren might? I myself have been hanging on to stuff my parents passed on in the same way. Have I enjoyed the stuff? Some of it I've used with pleasure. Some of it has just been kept from sense of duty.

The ancestral pattern goes back a long ways. My father used to tell me how his grandmother had gone through 7 fires, and in the last one, she saved only the silver flatware. As the flames engulfed the house, she was heard to say, 'let it burn, let it burn." Nothing in the house meant so much to her anymore that she was willing to risk life and limb - her own or others’ - to retrieve what was in there.

I'm grateful to be alive in this 21st century CE. We seem to be coming into a time for traveling lighter. I’m up for that. Now it's time to get down to doing my part.

No comments:

Books, Movies, Audios, Websites and Other Good Stuff

  • The Real Wealth of Nations by Riane Eisler - fastcinating insights into how to get economics back on track. Read it. Share it.
  • RAven's End by Ben Gadd - for adults and children - a fantasy set in the Canadian Rockies full of lore of the mountains and what lives there.
  • The Third Ear - On Listening to the World by Joachim-Ernst Berendt - giving us back listening and its power to reconnect us to the world.
  • As It Is In Heaven - Movie from Sweden, 2004 - perhaps the greatest movie of the human spirit that I have ever seen. So true to real life and so prophetic. It came to my attention as I've been re-discovering my own improvisational voice - the kind we all have whether we "can sing" or not. So rich and so healing.
  • Theory U by Otto Scharmer - An advanced handbook of public and group conversation that comes from a very deep place. It is refreshing in its authenticity and profound in its import: Leading from the Future as It Emerges.
  • His Dark Materials - The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman, Oxford professor - epic fantasy of two pre-adolescent children as they explore parallel universes and engage goodness and what we call evil. Available in audio also. This makes great reading for all ages and is far deeper and more satisfying than Harry Potter. See
  • Lives of Others - movie - beautifully crafted story of being alive in a climate of fear and how even the most hardened can be touched by love of life.
  • Parrots of Telegraph Hill - documentary movie and subtle love story about a street guy, the parrots he cared for, and more
  • The Danish Poet - a short movie (great animation) on where we come from
  • The Biology of Belief - Bruce Lipton Ph.D. - Exposing false but deeply held assumptions about the nature of reality - cellular, animal and human - Lipton reveals how deeply embedded in our world view and the way we live is the belief in Newtonian physics and what has become known as Darwinism. He shows parallels between life at the cellular level and at all other levels and how much we can rejoice in our prospects, once we embrace the wisdom of our cells. Available in 3.5 hour audio and 8+ hour audio at Anyone want to form a book club on this one?
  • The Upside of Down - Thomas Homer-Dixon - How we can prepare to bring about constructive change when the destructive forces around us create an opening