This quote got me thinking about stuff. Literally the things we claim ownership over. What fills our houses and apartments. And what often gets in the way of our liberation work.
I was a collector when I was younger. It was a family thing really. We had a lot of antique stuff, which bred other sorts of other collections. Clothing in closets. Things to play with and forget about. A need for numerous boxes.
At some point or another I had collections of the following items: political buttons, buttons for a local festival called the St. Paul Winter Carnival, rocks, bottle caps, old bottles, musical albums (particularly ska and indie rock), every book I could find by Herman Hesse, Janette Winterson, Robert Bly, Carson McCullers, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Joseph Campbell, Thomas Merton, C.G. Jung, and several others. Buddhist books. Newspaper clippings of sporting events. Sports memorabilia. A board of pinned butterflies and months. Bookmarks.
And that’s only the things I can remember as I write this.
I have said to people many times that I’m kind of a minimalist. Which is definitely true these days, but wasn’t even six or seven years ago. Living without a lot of things around, as well as the compulsion to gather many more specific things, is something that developed gradually and I can’t help but think as a result of all the years of Zen practice and study.
Somewhere along the line, collecting and hording started to drop off. The “need” to have every book or CD by so and so just didn’t matter anymore. The idea that my free time should be structured in part around heading to some store to purchase some object ceased to call me. Which, when I think about it, is a pretty major change.
I have written a lot about the sickness of consumerism, how it defines and limits our lives in so many ways. But until I saw that quote this morning, I hadn’t really reflected on how far I have come myself.
Less than five years ago, a long-term relationship I was in ended. And when I think about the time I spent with my ex-girlfriend, no small part of it seemed to be built around going to bookstores and CD shops looking for something or another. We also did a lot of hiking, traveling, and event going, but there was a default around shopping that is so very clear to me now. That relationship is just one example of many I could write about.
Humans are good at justifying wanting more and claiming it as “need.” Our mainstream economy is built around making profit through those falsified needs.
When was the last time you asked yourself what is truly necessary for living a liberated life? Maybe it’s a regular practice, and maybe you have never asked that question at all.
What have you collected over the years? Did it bring you joy in the past? Does it now? How much time and energy do you use to maintain said collections?