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Meditation 7 - When it comes to possessions, less is more

In my novel Letters to the Black Underground, society revolves sycophantically around consumption, which is undertaken as a compulsive daily ritual in ego-building as a substitute for real substance, real connection, real meaning. In this world, people are alienated from one another, isolated in cluttered apartments crammed full of unopened boxes of plastic crap that was purchased, delivered, and forgotten in the blink of an eye. In this society expression takes the form of 140 characters, which broadcast a vacuous, disconnected stream of consciousness into an uncaring void. The void answers with advertisements for Botox, anti-depressants, and a new bikini. Public memory is short – a week long at most – with events and happenings causing outrage one moment and being disregarded the next, added to the archive of defunct media propaganda.

The true world is unknown; the only visible phenomena are projections from a person’s smart glasses onto white buildings. This new-fangled, virtual world has only one message, which resonates across devices, and has done so since the beginning of Time: I am what I consume.

It doesn’t sound at all like science fiction. It is the way things are, just with a bit of dramatisation.

At home, we have a room full of boxes containing the miscellany of Function, Ego, and Memory that form Identity. We recently moved house, and the packing took a very long time. Too long. There was one distinct moment when, as I was packing my stuff from our spare bedroom into about a million boxes destined for shipping, charity, storage, or the new place, I stopped to consider the actual what-the-fuckness of the volume of shit that I was packing away, schlepping from point A to point B, and then unpacking into new cupboards never to be looked at again.

There was a perpetual thought process running through my mind during all of this – do I care enough about this object to pay to keep it, both monetarily and energetically? This old, metal shower rack for toiletries that I’ve had since I was 14? This pair of shoes that I bought on sale? These camping gas canisters? This book about outdoor safety? This thing, that thing, the next thing, the nth thing.

I was very optimistic about my ability to downscale. In reality, sentiment and imagination bogged me down tremendously. I was poisoned by a cloying nostalgia that suggested my experiences and the reality of connections to people and special moments in the past had their essence in objects. I was equally encumbered by an imagined future, in which I would need that coffee table book about architecture in order to… what? I would need the snorkeling mask. I would definitely miss that painting if I got rid of it. Those pants that were too tight would provide a nice incentive to get skinnier. This trinket given to me was pivotal in my retaining the essence of that time, in this place, with these people. Rental space in my mind rapidly experienced a price bubble as more and more crap moved in, nestling in nicely between the special place reserved for my family and my dreams of travelling the world, creating a goo that hardened to be stronger than concrete. My heart, as a result, was heavy and sunk like a stone, leaving me to seal and label box after box in a state of disillusionment and submission.

Good Lord, it continues still, this decathecting. It is accompanied by grief that for all its absurdity is no less real. Honesty, humour, metaphor, and resolve are my only hope of not drowning in the middle-class suburban ideal, which proffers its drugs Safety and Security like cheap crack.

If I opted to own less I would worry less about the psychological maintenance fees for such things, and have a lot more time for the things that are important to me: time with family, friends, my husband, time to read, to create, to play, to learn, to travel, to connect. I would have more freedom, to become and just to be.

But how do I transition into this new, non-attached me that gives so few fucks? There is a shift in my attitude towards life that clearly needs to happen. I haven’t the faintest idea how to make that shift yet, and if anyone tells you that they know how you should make it, they are a diabolical charlatan.

We are complex entities with systems of action and avoidance that have arisen from the infinite contributions of nature and nurture, with thinking processes evolving daily through neurochemistry and other confounding unknowables. Probably the starting point is a desire for less, which is not like a magical satori moment during which the way suddenly becomes obvious. Maybe it is more of a discipline, of a meditation, of a mantra that reinforces no-thingness moment after moment, day after day, year after year.

In searching for a fitting mantra, for me only one can suffice. It is a term found in Vedic literature, in the Upanishads, and is a phrase that identifies oneself with the universe, with ultimate reality.

Soham. I am that.


From the 16 Meditations for Deranged Workaholics series.

From the 16 Meditations for Deranged Workaholics series.

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