I’m having something removed today. Well, it’s the beginning of the process of removal, won’t happen overnight. It’s got me contemplating the idea of removing, rather than adding things to my world. As a citizen of the over-hyped and empathy-challenged U.S. of A. I find the practice of eliminating things almost blasphemous to what is expected of me as a citizen of this great country. I’m supposed to add…add and then add some more. It’s all about accumulation and getting, having and keeping, coveting and desiring.
It is most certainly not about letting go.
In the course of any lifetime plenty of things are taken from us without our approval or oftentimes acceptance. Jobs, finances, relationships, people. That last one feels like the biggest theft of them all, and the cruelest. But what if we were as open and comfortable with loss and losing, giving up and releasing as we are expected to be in wanting and longing and accumulating?
Obviously, we as a society have a problem with stuff – the physical possessions clogging our closets, sprawling under our beds, collecting dust in our attics and more and more being crammed into the ugly rows of metal door storage units dotting the sides of streets and highways across the land. I took a very scenic route home this past week, insisting that no interstate freeway would roll under my tires, that only back roads and two-lane highways would carry me to my front door. Along the way I stopped and explored, observed, consumed (thank you small town café for the **pie!) and people watched. What I saw included scary flea markets filled to the rafters with somebody else’s junk – doubtful that the plastic throw offs and cheap goods would ever qualify as someone’s treasure. I saw repeated private moments at cemeteries (in a seven-hour drive I witnessed more than four) where a single figure placed flowers or sat monument-like at a graveside. There were no less than a dozen Dollar General stores and too-many-to-count yards and driveways stacked with junk and decaying vehicles.
In addition to all of the above, what caught my eye were the people: old people and poor people. Not the kind of old that I see living in a metropolitan city or the kind of poor either. This old was the truly old; the old that knows no amount of plastic surgery or unforgivable shopping sprees at Urban Outfitters will change the fact of years gone passed. The poor hustling, but not the city hustle of signs and panhandling, rather the working multiple jobs, living with more than a single generation and grateful for another day and another chance to win big, or at least win at all, in this great country of ours.
Wandering thoughts, I know. Stuff. People. Poverty. It’s my job to pay attention. I don’t have the luxury of ignoring humanity in all its flawed mannerisms if I expect to get hired to portray an element of that humanity or illuminate parts of that landscape rarely given the spotlight.
Today as I contemplate what in my life needs to be removed, not just the obvious, but the things that I’ve allowed others to lead me to believe I gotta have or I gotta do or I gotta be, I am grateful for the images of piled-up junk – it will make me think twice about what I purchase. I’m grateful for the people, old and poor and everything in between – I need to check in with myself more often, give credence to the fact that the bubble of my world needs a good bursting now and then.
**My sweet neighbor reminded me recently of a profound thought from the play Boston Marriage, written by David Mamet: "We must have pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of pie." I couldn't agree more.