Collecting stuff is not a new pastime. An industry has been born due to this sport. The fastest growing sector of Real Estate in the past four decades is self-storage; there are 2.3 billion square feet of storage space in America.
Rather than calling it what it is, we use all kinds of verbal trickery to justify the material baggage. No matter how we jump down and around it, this is the fact: Collecting stuff we no longer need is expensive.
The stockpiling of stuff is difficult to hide, therefore makes it obvious that there is an issue. It’s something like slowing down on the highway to take a peek at the collision.
But, this grip is not so apparent when it comes to collecting memories that keep us stuck in our tracks. This battle cannot be seen with the eyes, only experienced by the mind.
I’ve come to learn that any sense of nostalgia is a loaded posture. Sure, it can bring warm memories that we bathe our wandering minds with. However, there is also a sneaky bass tone that comes along for the ride when we indulge in nostalgia. Like carbon monoxide poisoning, it can slide into our lives undetected.
Rather than enjoying a recollection of a time, with our finite power, we try to recreate the remembrance. Then, nostalgia turns into this perpetual chase of relishing something that is only a memory: The game winning three John Paxon hit in game six in 1993, the ridiculous things you did with your college friends on Saturday nights, when Obama got elected, or when you lived in that one bedroom shack on the west coast and ate burritos wrapped in foil every day for a whole year.
Every time I visit Ma and Pa in Cerritos, California there’s a park that I drive by. This park carries a magical energy. It was where things changed for me. I was climbing out of a hard time, and entering many new seasons. My spiritual life was shifting. I took up fitness that soon turned into one of my crafts.
This park is where I started training other people. It’s also where I’d pray and read between training sessions. You could say this park was a personal Baal Zephon for me—a camp I needed to spend time in before exodus from a previous life.
And each time, I have to remind myself that this was a good time in my life—but not one I must try to recreate. If I let myself pursue a memory and invest energy in replicating the exact experience, I begin to live in the past. It’s like driving a vehicle with your eyes glued the rear view mirror. Unlike physical stuff, getting lassoed by memory and trying to recreate it costs a non-renewable source: Time.
This rigidness is an extension of our need for power. Since we don’t know what lies ahead, we leech onto the past because we can rely on its validity. When we credit our stuff or memories with too much meaning, we are vulnerable to allowing those things to become our identities. Thus, we are fearful to find out what we are without them.
Adaptability is ancient wisdom that’s found in the present. Like water, it’s formless and reshapes based on the elements. It doesn’t try to control its environment. It adapts. We too must take a similar stance. If not, we close ourselves off by endlessly chasing the past or awarding stuff with too much meaning. This way of life creates borders that become barriers.
However, being adaptable to the life before us doesn’t mean we fly by the seat of our pants. More often, adapting is a subtle gesture of relinquishing the power we award to our past events or the stuff we’ve collected.
If we can do this – let go of old beliefs that chain us up – we open ourselves up to the new, the painful, the absurd, the beautiful and the ironic. It’s the first step towards a marvelously imperfect life.
Photo: Getty Images