Monday, March 07, 2005

Catharsis, earthbound.

So, the time draws near. Soon I will be leaving this town again, to return only fati knows when. I pack my belongings away, pack my clothes away, and stuff them in my car as best I can. How much of your life can you pack into 44.7 cubic feet?

It's interesting now, going through this process once again. Moving - reducing. Every time I move, I go through my stuff to see what I need, and prioritize. How much can I fit? What don't I need? The trash can gets bigger and bigger, the cargo room gets smaller and smaller. I find myself wondering, what will I do without this? Or this? But in the end, the answer is always the same: I'll survive. No worries.

There's a shirt that Funny Times sells, it has a domestic woman in a room surrounded by all sorts of domestic crap, and the caption is "I'd like more stuff, please!" The humor of capitalism. Accumulate, accumulate, buy, buy. You don't have enough stuff, so go spend some money. Make yourself more complete. Without a blender and a food processor, you aren't complete. If you don't have a lay-z-boy, you've got no self-respect.

And yet I revel in this. I enjoy searching through the detritus, discovering and prioritizing the value of the little trinkets I carry with me. What makes a home a home? I abandon the furniture, it serves only a function. I leave behind the clothes, I don't need that many. I throw out trinkets and knick-knacks and quaint gifts from relatives. What do I keep?

I hold on to certain things for function, of course. I need some dishes. Some pots and pans. some cds and dvds. Other things, I hold on to because they make it home. The photos, the keepsakes, the memories in physical form. When you have to choose what's worth keeping, it can be amazing how impractical it is to keep the "practical" things. So I sort. I choose, I decide, I ruminate. Then I burn, or throw away, or give away, or donate. I pack, I keep, I hold onto. Some would look at the things I keep -- photos, for one, and wonder why. Some would say that I should take the TV instead of the box of photos. Some would say I should take the microwave rather than the touristy vacation crap. But this is what makes us who we are. We are not defined by our electronics, we are defined by our memories. And those I cling to, more fervently than the food processor.

Oh, not all of them. Some I toss with the other accumulate garbage. Some I discard easily. And that's part of it. That's a facet of the catharsis. Perhaps the more important one. You have to prioritize your stuff, but you have to prioritize your memories, as well. Should I remember the sexual encounter freshman year, or should I hold onto the protest rally? Should I keep in mind the night at the club, or should I savor the night at home with a friend? What is more important, the date with the hot girl, or the date with the good friend? Which of these should I take along? Which of these should I leave behind with the clothes for Salvation Army?

That's why moving is fun. In life, in this country, we are supposed to accumulate things. We are supposed to pile them up around us, surround ourselves with our comforts, our familiar, the known. But instead, I choose to trim the fat. I choose to scrutinize, to examine, and to decide. I choose to leave behind so much, only so that I can experience so much more. I will not forget some things. I will not forget the joy of a simple conversation, the night of understated beauty, the long talks and the long walks. I will not forget these things. But I will forget others. I will forget much. I do this not out of callousness, not out of disdain for an individual. I do this because if our life is to be measured by the moments that make us happy, it is necessary to discard the ones that don't. I do this because when I look back, I want to do so fondly. Yes, ignorantly. Yes, without the troubled memories. But we only have so many memories. Only so much we can hold onto. Every thing remembered costs us one forgotten, after a time. And if I am to forget some things, I'd like to decide for myself which ones.

That's the catharsis. That's the release. That's the joy in impermanence.

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