Like many people, I often carry on these fierce internal debates on subjects that sometimes come at odds w/ popular culture.
In this case – Things. Stuff. More importantly, the acquisition of things and stuff.
And I came to the recent conclusion that – properly done – the acquisition of things and stuff – can many times be justified as a cultural necessity to preserve artifacts for the future.
I should qualify that statement a bit further. When I say preserve artifacts, what I really mean to say is to preserve those certain items we have acquired that have an intrinsic nature of that substance I can best associate with that fundamental but sometimes illusive thing we refer to as quality.
I say illusive rather tongue in cheek as Robert Pirsig, author of the ’70s cult classic ‘Zen in the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’, drove himself crazy (literally) – not to mention a few readers (myself included) – with his obsession over trying to define just what constituted quality.
I devoted another post sometime back rebutting his obtuseness so I won’t repeat my philosophic stance on the nature of quality but will instead attempt to make a statement on what things and stuff that I personally have reconciled as qualitatively acceptable to acquire.
Note. Consumerism – in the most general sense – I find repugnant. And ostentatious displays of wealth are simply juvenile and convey to those whom are even remotely conscious that there is a suspicious lack of sophistication on behalf of the idiot who must billboard their bad taste.
That said, I have narrowed my list of things and stuff that is acceptable to acquire down to the following: those things hand-constructed of any natural material.
That’s it. But I will confess that my conclusion to the nature of acceptable stuff has been a long time coming. I am guilty of being anti-stuff. A rethink was in order.
So I had a minor epiphany yesterday while looking at the large kitchen cleaver/knife device I purchased a couple of weeks ago. I walked over and picked it up and marveled at the feel of it and the beautiful simplicity of its construction: wood and steel fashioned into an interesting and pleasing shape.
I asked myself why I loved this particular blade. It certainly wasn’t expensive. It cost ridiculously something like $4 USD*. But it was a tool hand-fashioned by a master craftsman in the somewhat nearby city of Sayula that is famous in Mexico for its knives. The history of that blade resonated deep within me.
While watching a cooking video – my cocktail hour run up to dinner – I couldn’t help but ruminate further on the subject of things and stuff. I have a long held belief that how you spend your money not just says a lot about you as an individual but also is highly representative of your politics, your belief system and ultimately what you choose to support.
I am a minimalist and have been for most of my adult life. But I never really questioned the lifestyle because to me life just eventually seemed to get better with the less stuff I owned. Everything you own requires two objectionable quantities. It has to be maintained and you have to have a place to store it.
And if you ever move – like I have many times – you have to move all your shit with you.
I once had something like 25 framed paintings and photos hung on the walls of the last house I owned. A nice collection if I might say so myself, but none of it is missed. Now my only object de arte is a tiny piece of amber that sits on my kitchen counter top that magnificently glows when the sun is in the southern sky.
I am profoundly happy with that. That tiny thing also has a story inasmuch as I bought it with my daughter on our trip to Chiapas last year.
I admire the natural materials and my personal preference for anything is that it must be handmade. My cutting boards and kitchen tools – handmade. My sandals and assorted bags – handmade. My chairs, table, and bed – handmade. My mezcal – handmade. All my food is made by hand.
Hands are the extension of the powers of our creativity. And those things made of natural materials over time don’t wear out like their mass-produced bastard cousins but instead develops a marvelous patina that makes them increasingly more beautiful over time.
So in conclusion, I’ve just discovered I am not against the possession of all stuff and all things after all. And I find the truth of the matter incredibly enlightening.
*The price was so impossibly cheap because it was found sitting in a dust covered box on the top shelf of the second oldest hardware store in town, lying there for years all but forgotten.