Periodic Pleasure

The movers come this morning. They will extract from her house my IC’s remaining household furniture, her refrigerator, a few pieces of outdoor furnishings, and miscellaneous other odds and ends. They will truck the stuff to my house, will unload it here, and will leave us with the chore of making two households fit into one. We already have disposed of a considerable volume of furnishings, but still we have enough to fill a small castle. Enough clothes, chairs, knickknacks, tables, dressers, and assorted other evidence of wealth to spur me to wonder where need ends and want begins. My curiosity is not entirely judgmental; it simply inquires about acquisitiveness. Why do I feel the need, or the desire, to own multiple sets of sheets, for example, or enough chairs to seat all my friends and then some? What comfort do I feel by having bookshelves full of books—many I have never read—or more cooking utensils and implements than I need? Why do I see objects in stores or markets or online and say these words, or some facsimile thereof, to myself? “I want that. I will buy that.” How many pairs of shoes or how many shirts do I need or want? How many pairs of shorts that no longer fit do I need to keep in my closet, especially when I know other people who would fit into them and who need clothing are “out there” and ready to receive them?

Every time I have moved or rearranged my living space or otherwise forced myself to acknowledge the sheer volume of “stuff” I own, I wonder about need and want. Every time I attempt to make room in my closet by eliminating what I no longer (or never did) need, I ask myself those same questions, over and over. Yesterday, I touched on asceticism in my blog. I think the topic came to mind because I recognize how thoroughly I have succumbed to the allure of consumerism and how repulsive to me the lust for “more” can be. A mixture of embarrassment and shame wash over me when I seriously consider how much  crap I own and cart around with me whenever I move. My IC asked me yesterday whether I would want to pay movers to relocate some of the excess evidence of my capitalistic greed, were we to decide to move elsewhere. Well, she did not use those terms; but those terms apply. I don’t want to pay anyone for my mistakes. I just want to learn from them.

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Philosophy often differs sharply from practice. The paragraphs I wrote above address both, but philosophy is much easier to embrace than is the practice necessary to implement it. I may feel strongly opposed to rampant “consumerism,” but my behavior says otherwise. It’s hypocrisy in living color, in the weak flesh. Ach!

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Last night, we went with friends to eat at a Cajun restaurant at the far end of the Village. The food was good, if not great. The flavor of the fried oyster appetizers was good, but they had cooled far too much between cooking and serving. Étouffée, on the other hand, was hot and spicy and superbly flavorful. The white rice was a cold and gelatinous blob. The jambalaya was tasty but lukewarm. The gumbo was tasty. The bread was a pointless waste of flour. In spite of the hit-and-miss aspects of the meal itself, the evening was an enjoyable and refreshing break from moving.

Spending time with friends can recharge one’s energy and make the hit-and-miss aspects of dining out perfectly acceptable. Every restaurant has winners and losers on the menu. And every restaurant can suffer my heartless criticism, even when undeserved.

After dinner, as I thought back on the early evening dinner, it occurred to me that we could have dined on re-heated tortillas and butter and the meal still would have been just fine. I might have complained about the quality of the butter, but the meal would have been just fine. It’s always the company that matters. One way or the other, it’s the people, not the food. The proof of that statement can be found when eating alone; even at the finest restaurant, eating alone can be a torturous experience with very little joy thrown in, no matter how wonderful the dishes.

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Once the move is done and we’ve adjusted our environment to our “new normal,” my IC and I will take some short and not-so-short trips to see the world around us. As I contemplate those trips this morning, I cannot wait! I need to get out and away. I need new spaces and places to take my mind off of ideas that turn my thoughts into grey smudges and dull views through hazy windows.  I am ready for happy excitement! I already have that, of course; but I’m ready for happy excitement in a new place, at least periodicallly.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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2 Responses to Periodic Pleasure

  1. kozimeg says:

    My college advisor, encouraging me to go to Denmark for a year, advised me to travel before “I became obligated to my possessions.” Glad I did. Meg

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