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Owning “Stuff”


A Compilation Article from Maine Pagan Digest

[Ed note: The opinions expressed here are from many different people, so the subjective “I” is not specific to one person. Good luck!]

The Holidays are behind us, to which many of us breathe a sigh of relief… until the credit card bills come in. Did you get everything you wanted? So what? What do things truly matter? Remember being devastated as a child when that extra special toy did not arrive under yon tree? Do you still feel that way? A friend told us of a quote, which essentially said that fretting over things you don’t have is wasting what you do have.

I have had an epiphany.

While not a wealthy man, monetarily, I have too much “stuff.” Dumb stuff that I don’t need. Good stuff that I never use. Some stuff that I really don’t like but for some reason can’t get rid of. It is all getting in my way and requires me to get more space to keep all my stuff from the elements. (Sounds like the George Carlin bit huh?) Knowing that I don’t need it and having all this stuff that I already have somehow has never kept me from wanting more stuff that I don’t need. This gift season it really has struck home as folks have asked me what I want for the holidays, as if getting just that next thing will make my life more enjoyable. I really sat down and thought about it with the intention of making a list the other day and realized that even if I got everything on my list that this would not change all that is most important to me in my life so why bother. I suddenly realized that on our deathbeds in our old age (hopefully) I don’t think we’ll look back on our life and say “I wish I had gotten more stuff.” It is more likely that we would wish that we had spent more time enjoying and sharing our short lives with those we love.

Ben Franklin once wrote something to the effect that “if everyone else in the world were blind he should not want fine clothes and furniture.” I think he was right. (He usually was.) So in this traditional time of the making of resolutions, I wish to go on record as saying that it will be my endeavor to rid myself of much of my unneeded stuff this year and to attempt not to accumulate anything unneeded in its place. I will choose to be content with and thankful for the blessings that have been bestowed upon me and my family.

Many of you know about my STUFF, especially those of you from the old Sunday groups who got some of my STUFF, and those of you wonderful people who have helped me move my considerable mountain of STUFF from home to home. Every now and again, I go through phases of wanting to get rid of STUFF. And a lot of it is “stuff.” I frequent yard sales and Salvation Army and such, looking for new things, interesting things. And I know why.

I found this pattern back in 1988 when I was living with a boyfriend who got called into the armed services 5 months early. He left a large hole in my life… a hole I unknowingly decided to fill with STUFF. I needed something new, something to like, something to distract me. I sometimes bought animals and pets, for a way to have something to love, something that needed me. And even though I know this, I still buy STUFF. I see this trait in some of my friends, and we are all in the same boat — the U.S.S. STUPH.

My parents tend to hoard, and I dread the time when we will have to clean out their home. They have almost every check they have ever written, an entire basement full of things that they “might” need. They saved clothes for me from high school (and a size 12 I may never be again, speaks the size 24). They have things that have not moved (Not. Moved.) since we moved into that house in 1982.

“It’s only $1, $3, it’s on sale….”  I need to find out what is causing my need for STUFF. Am I running away from something, trying to shift focus from other issues? What is so lacking in me that I need so much STUFF to “validate,” if that is the case?

Your material things do talk to you (“Put me away!” “Diet so I’ll fit!” “Are you ever going to read me?”). I have found that that’s why I am a binge-and-purge consumer — I get things cheap too, and later on throw everything out and start over. After a while I can’t take the stuff talking to me, and as my apartment is also quite small, I find I feel better and calmer, the less STUFF there is around.

Of course, when I told my daughter about this phenomenon last year, she said, “Well, I guess I don’t have to clean my room, then. My stuff doesn’t talk to me.”

Here’s some hints….  I hope they help.

* Look, seriously SEE your stuff, each individual object. Are there things in your house that are just there because they’ve always been there, and are so much a part of the wallpaper that you overlook them? Ask yourself: Do I use it? Do I NEED it? When was the last time I used it? What purpose does it serve? Why do I own it, why did I buy it?? What does it mean to me, and why am I keeping it? If there are no really good reasons, ditch it.

* What are your things saying to you? Are the books you bought and never got around to reading telling you something? Is that size 10 dress hanging in your closet and not on your size 14 butt? WHY? What is it saying to you? That you failed a diet? That you should be “thus and such” a body size or type? If you don’t like what it’s saying to you, junk it.

* As it is difficult for us “stuffies” to get rid of things, try this. Start boxes in your storage area. Mark one “Month,” one “6 Months” and one “Year” with the appropriate dates. Put those things you may use in the “Month” box. Those you rarely use in “6 Months” box. And the things you just don’t use or are really uncertain about in the “Year” box. Leave those boxes closed (but for putting more in) for the allotted time. If you have wanted nothing or used nothing from those boxes in that time span, DO NOT OPEN THEM – GIVE THEM TO GOODWILL. Whatever is in them, if you can’t remember and it has had no use to you, IT’S GONE.  You are free.

Many members of my family this year have been hard to buy for, because they literally don’t “need” anything. My son in fact has more clothes than we can fit in the bureau and more toys than the room can hold. I try to do practical things (grocery gift certificates and such) and that helps. Maybe after the holidays, my family and I can discuss what we **!NEED!** and how we can give that to each other.

Thank you, Aracos, for starting the thread on Maine Pagan Digest.

Ethical Consuming

I have been meditating on the ethics of consuming. We as living beings have to consume to live. It is in our nature to use tools, to feed, to create art, to procreate, to preserve and pass on knowledge to the next generation. We are part of the cycle of life. We consume. It is natural.

That said, as a species, our consuming is creating massive environmental disaster. Currently, the rate of species extinction is 100 – 1000 times higher than what we see in the fossil records. There is no place on Earth where the effect of humans isn’t felt. The human population just keeps growing. In my short life of almost 46 years, the population has doubled! Three and a half billion is now seven billion! And everyone keeps consuming. As I said, it is in our nature to live – and living requires consuming.

So where do we draw the line, ethically speaking, when it comes to consuming? Obviously we can’t continue as we have. Within a few decades we will reach the limits of Mother Earth, and then will come the inevitable collapse (and it will be ugly). So how to live now? What is okay and what is not okay? What is the ethical question we need to ask when we consume? My mentor posed this question: “Would it be okay if everyone was did what I am about to do?”

Think on this in all aspects of your life. What if everyone bought what I am about to buy? What if everyone took out of the environment what I am about to take? One quickly realizes that almost everything we consume is unethical.

So how do we live? That I can’t answer for you. Sometimes I wonder if we should live at all. Obviously Nature cannot support the current population; much less the geometric growth we are achieving. But to me, while I have something to offer, while I can make a difference, living is the ethical choice. When I don’t have these things anymore, it is time to stop living and give my body back to the Earth.

We as a species need to fight our own nature when it comes to consuming and procreation. We can do this. We do this all the time. The sex drive is huge. Do we sleep with anyone who says yes? No, we don’t. We negotiate relationship. Most everyone is monogamous. We control the instinct. So I know we can control the urge to consume. We need to separate need from desire. And the most important place we need to do this is in the desire to have children. There is no need to breed. Giving the current state of our beloved Earth, we have to stop procreating. We can do this consciously or we can let Nature do this cataclysmically. Either way, we will have to lower the population. All ethics aside, we have no choice.

These are heavy truths that most people just do not want to think about. We do everything in this country to avoid talking about it. We still have fertility clinics for people to whom Nature has said, “don’t breed.” And we interfere. We add more people when all over the globe there are millions and millions of children who need a home. We have a cult of life in this country. People spend endless resources to prolong life. This time is paid for by the environment. We fear death so much, we sell off our children’s future to avoid it. It is time for this culture to stop making death the enemy. Death is a friend that allows the cycle of life to continue. I forget who said this but it is so wise: “Life shouldn’t be measured by the length but rather by the breadth.”

Why I am writing this depressing stuff? What does this have to do with Druidry? For me it has everything to do with my spiritual life. Learning to live in sacred relationship to the Earth is what this is all about. And the Earth is telling me something. I think we as Pagans can lead the culture in establishing a new paradigm where we walk within the bounds of Nature; considering our actions; considering the future generations; working to restore the ecosystems; ending consumerism; and honoring all aspects of Nature as sacred (especially the importance of death which is currently the enemy of the cult of life). We can do this. We as people whose entire religion is based in Nature, should lead the way forward. If we don’t, who will?

Blessings of peace and simplicity,
Snowhawke /|\