Monday, October 15, 2007


I'm thinking about stuff, I'm looking at stuff, I'm surroundded by stuff. Literally. I always am, really, but usually the stuff is discretely arranged, sometimes even artistically arranged. Right now it's higgily-piggily and just plain messy and ugly. You see, my apartment is two rooms, of equal size and the "other" one which is basically a bedroom but also a dining room [please don't ask] is being painted. I took everything off the walls, off the surfaces, off the floor if possible and even out of some of the bookscase shelves all to make it easier for the painter and a helper to move the larger pieces of furniture and to paint as efficiently as possible. And it's all piled in here. What a mess! What a lot of stuff!!

Some people live happily without stuff, or with very, very little. There is a Buddhist nun who lived in a cave for eleven years with almost nothing, she could probably count the items on her fingers. Many people who have more stuff than I do -- think of the famous Collier Brothers who have several emulators in this world. This stuff took me all weekend to carry in here and it will possibly take two wek weeks to rearrange I hope more efficiently and neater ... and a certain amount will go to the thrift store [a certain amount already has]

I see ads in the paper for a movie called, I think "What We Lost in the Fire." Which made me recall an incident from a trip I took. A woman from Los Angeles mentioned passingly that she and her husband lived in a suburb in the "fire zone," -- i.e., the part of L.A. were wildfires are frequent in the arid days of late summer. Toward the end of the trip when I suppose she had ascertained we were a sympathetic group, she produced a packet of photographs that she had lugged across the US and the Atlantic. They showed the devastation of the suburb in which the couple lived -- and it might have been Desden after the fire bombings.

What is odd is that this couple was extraordinarily lucky -- and perhaps she had survivors' guilt. They, like their neighbor, were told by public annnouncements, police cars driving through the area, to evaculate within the hour. They grabbed whatever and went to stay with relatives who lived only a few miles way. Other neighbors who did not have relatives nearby had to find room in motels. This couple stayed with relatives in comfort and with sympathetic hosts But for three days they had not idea what had happened to their home filled with a lifetime of stuff. When they returned they found that a few houses of many dozen, had somehow not been burned at all and theirs was among the untouched. They lost several thousand dollars worth of plantings in their garden but, unlike their neighbors who lost everything, they had all their stuff, perhaps a bit smoky but unharmed.

This woman seemed to have been deeply traumatized by nearly losing all her stuff. She needed to tell a dozen strangers verbally and pictorily what nearly happened, how lucky she was. But she didn't act lucky or grateful, she acted traumatized. Such is the power of stuff! ... I hope I am not my stuff! I think I could live without it although I would mourn lost photographs. I don't think I could live in a cave 11 months, let along 11 years without some stuff .. and yet people have survived horrible imprisonment without stuff ... because they had enough in their minds: poetry, music, sometimes, determination, sense of self. Something to contemplate ... forget the stuff cluttering up the room, is there substantive stuff in the mind, memory? Do I have any idea what I might do with my mind in a cave for 11 days ...?

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