More Thoughts on Stuff

My short conversations with my friend, Max sometimes stretch into entire afternoons. I’ve mentioned him many times before in other posts.

I admire him because he possesses a great intellect, he’s a great listener (and conversationalist) he’s honest to a fault, and has the inquisitiveness of a child.

I want to write down a couple of points that our conversation strayed across this afternoon before I forget them.

First, at some point we wandered into that space of discussing stuff. BTW – he’s an aspiring minimalist. And he wants to shed possessions because he firmly believes that [owning] stuff can seriously stand between you and your understanding of the real world and more importantly your relationship to it.

I can’t disagree with that. And besides owning stuff – especially big and expensive things – can logistically be a pain in the ass. Big expensive things require insurance, storage, maintenance, and as such can be a major contributor to one’s anxieties.

But I want to forward to another thought on the subject of ownership, the conversation of which began with Max remarking that ‘you like your stuff’; referring to me checking my watch periodically. It’s a common 36mm stainless steel Seiko with an simple stainless steel bracelet. I told him the only reason why I look at my watch is to check the time; that I am not overstaying my welcome in his place of business.

But he said again that I liked my stuff. And I said, [you know] yes, I do. He said something to the effect that he sensed I got a lot of enjoyment from the few things I own here. I thought about it for a moment and said again, yes I do.

That brief exchange triggered a thought about the very nature of ownership and I then postulated that a man can buy a $150K Mercedes but never really own it.

Let me briefly digress to an earlier discussion. We were talking about the Mexican economy, his simple life selling clothes (although he is a university educated accountant) and how the reality here is that more times than not a person is forced to take on a more entrepreneurial role than to be able to pursue their profession.

He went on to say, that’s okay – he liked his simple life, working for himself.

I replied, ‘You’re good man. Honest. What more is there than that?’ I then went onto say that death is the great equalizer. I told him when he died he could do so in the heartfelt way that he did the best he could. He cheated no one. And was kind and honorable. I can see no better end than that.

I said then by way of contrast that any asshole with the money can buy a $150K Mercedes but the irony was twofold: When he died he lost it along with everything else he’d bought along the way. And two, he might have possessed it but maybe never truly owned it.

Ownership (in my humble opinion) transcends the mere ability in just being able to buy something. Ownership implies you’ve got some skin in the game. Did that man ever once wash his expensive car? Or bust a knuckle on a bolt? Probably not. If so, then he never really owned it. He was just in possession of it for a certain number of years.

You want to truly own something? Then make it yourself. Design it, draw it, think about; that’s the best.

Another path towards ownership is to buy a handmade product from [hopefully] the producer and revere the skill and ingenuity that he put into the product. Give homage to both the craftsman and the craft. That’s another form of ownership.

Buy a motorcycle and push it and yourself to the absolute death-defying limits and that too is a form of ownership.

True ownership implies a connection between you and the object. If you have something – a woman, a gun, a tool, a pair of shoes, a jacket, a bicycle, a car; anything – and you neither take care of it nor appreciate it – you don’t really own it, you just possess it.

A person might own a great library or tremendous collection of rare and valuable books. But it is my opinion if he hasn’t read them then he can’t call them his own. He merely possesses a bunch of paper, expensive as they may be, bound into volumes he is unwittingly preserving for the next rich fool down the line.

Stuff as an investment? Sure. Why not? But now the conversation has shifted to money. Your precious stuff has just been reduced to a commodity. How does one go about connecting with a commodity? Should one view their first edition of Don Quixote with reverence and awe, as possibly the greatest piece of fiction ever written, or as an appreciable asset?

Greed is the antithesis of the owner/object relationship. Greed is the height of selfishness. Greed is corruption. And owning shit you don’t need, can’t use, or don’t abundantly admire is just plain stupid.

Hording, what an unsavory concept. They found boxes and boxes, stacked to the ceiling, filling every room in Andy Warhol’s apartment upon his death. Valuable shit. Shit he couldn’t get enough of. And now he’s dead. The shit remains but he’s long gone.

Jay Leno’s Garage, while impressive is at the same time downright ridiculous. How many classic cars are enough? Ask Jay, and I’d bet he’d have no answer.

Elizabeth Taylor’s jewelry collection was auctioned off for something like $110M. I would imagine the vast majority of it sat in a safety deposit box buried in the bottom of some bank most if not all the time.

Immense wealth has to be a curse. I recently read that the actor, Johnny Depp spent upwards of $30K/month on wine. Owned 45 cars and 14 homes.

My favorite gemstones are emeralds. I bought my daughter 6-7 emeralds that weighed out at about a half carat each. We bought them together in Colombia then I had them set in silver – a simple bracelet – while on a trip to Ecuador. It was petite and feminine in an unpretentious way.

So why then do I find my older sister’s 5 carat emerald ring so extremely vulgar?

I’ll let you the reader decide if that’s hypocritical.

For me, much of my world view is colored by, ‘Just because you can, doesn’t necessarily mean you should.’

William Blake once said, “To see the world in a grain of sand, and to see heaven in a wildflower, hold infinity in the palm of your hands, and eternity in an hour.”

The first line: “To see the world in a grain of sand” implies scale (where small can be sublime). Scale leads to balance; whereby discovering sufficiency.

Bringing this back on point; sufficiency is that almost unreachable mental state when a person discovers he has exactly what he needs and needs no more.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s