Friday, May 22, 2020

The Boxes: Facile Trashing

Previous posting
First posting in "The Boxes" series
All "The Boxes" postings in reverse chronological order

When I describe the seething demonic piles of “Geez-Idunno” items (things I won’t trash yet don’t need) that have given rise to my Boxes Situation, everyone offers the same suggestion:
"Chuck it all in a dumpster," they suggest, "and don't look back. Pull off the bandaid quickly and be done with it. You won’t remember any of that stuff, much less miss it. Throw the problem away."
"Wallah," as the French say.

The advice is offered like a revelation. It's supposed to catch me off guard and surprise me. But the truth is that we People of the Boxes think of little else. Dumpster apocalypse - along with arson - is our perennial fantasy/obsession. We don't fear it, we yearn for it. But let me explain why it’s a crappy solution.

It assumes that my problem is that I'm clingy and materialistic; I'm over-identifying with my stuff and need to be freed from such bonds. And while I understand why someone might get this impression, it's comically off-kilter.

I'm unusually likely to walk away from this life and go live naked in the woods. If you told any of my friends "Hey, Jim left his keys in his car and a note on his unlocked front door reading "Take It!", and he's striding around a forest in a loin cloth," there wouldn't be much shock. Perhaps mild surprise. They might wonder "Why now?", but probably not "Why?"

Chowhound actually started out as "Jim Leff, The Chowhound", but I pulled myself gradually out of it, which is not how the world normally works.
And I shed my food-crazy persona immediately upon leaving CNET, feeling like Kevin Spacey losing his limp at the end of "The Usual Suspects":

Looks like you need to click into YouTube to watch the clip. Weird.

I have always opted to downshift, my signature move. There's less and less me as I self-combust in my work, and I started out with exhaustive letting go as a child yoga prodigy. Critical chunks can break off while I remain blithe. In short, I'm not someone who needs to restore perspective and loosen his grip. If anything, I could use to tighten up some.

So why hold onto unnecessary stuff? For the same reason I hold onto anything! Because I opt, for now, to keep the house and the car and the life, and I don't throw away my TV or toaster just because I can. I choose to pretend to be this guy in this place with this story, and the house, car, toaster, and TV are a part of are my high school yearbook and press clippings and 3D glasses!

Arbitrarily throwing away significant-seeming things because they're uncategorizable would be just as ditzy as hoarding every object that comes into my possession. I want to avoid extreme solutions and keep pursuing a sane middle ground between mindless eradication and mindless hoarding.

Will we human beings ever learn to react to extremism with enlightened moderation rather than with reciprocal extremism?

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