The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life
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Monday, June 3, 2013
Personal Reflections ...

In my last blog entry, I talked about the fact that we live our daily lives with a generally hazy and limited memory of what went on in our past. We think we know our histories and could tell our story at most any time, but actually, we’ve already forgotten quite a bit of it, perhaps most of it. Obviously this gets worse as you get older. What also gets worse with age, for me anyway, is the instinct to be a junk hoarder. I’m one of those people who have a hard time throwing old stuff out, even when its no longer useful. And this is largely because I know that my past life is fading away, and I’m trying to hold on to it by piling up as many keepsakes and reminders of what my life was like say 10 or 25 years ago. In effect, I’m trying to curate a museum collection dedicated to the life and times of yours truly.

It’s interesting how different people have different philosophies on this. Some people like to sweep the decks and throw out anything that is no longer immediately useful. They like to live light, with no excess baggage, no sentimental (or possibly painful) reminders of what once concerned them in their comings and goings. Maybe they keep a small scrapbook, a few pictures, an important letter or two, a college and high-school yearbook, but otherwise, everything must go. Others hoard all sorts of broken contraptions that once were part of their daily life, old clothes that are ripped or out of fashion, papers from work places that they left 15 years ago, childhood toys, etc. Some experts say that it is a public health issue!

I’m a bit on the “hoarder” side, having saved much junk that I hardly ever look at but don’t want to get rid of (and have trouble finding room to store). There is some argument that an old checking statement or pay stub may someday be needed, or a broken old camera might have a part that can repair a newer camera. But to be honest, that situation is fairly rare. I keep the stuff because once in a blue moon, I come across it and it reminds me just a bit about a daily life that I have long forgotten, of people who are gone from my life, of thoughts, beliefs and concerns I once had, of things and places that may have once caused me delight (or maybe fear and anxiety).

Is this a healthy or unhealthy thing? Well, I suppose it could cut either way. In some cases, it’s living in the past and trying to ignore the present. It’s a neurosis, a way of not dealing with problems in the present. Especially if the past is made to seem so much better than it really was.

On the other hand — people who throw everything out may be trying to deny and avoid reconciling some pain in their past. (Likewise, many people throw specific things out because they may be associated with someone or something that disappointed them — e.g. throwing out a perfectly functional and useful gift from a past lover who jilted you)(which I never did; e.g. I kept every usable thing my ex-wife ever gave me). For some people, the present or future may be an imagined escape from the past.

I suppose that it’s all a question of balance, as with most things. I probably should “lighten up” a bit; there doesn’t appear to be much public demand for a museum to enshrine and recollect all the days of my life and the times that I lived in. Perhaps I should just have faith — if Professor Tipler were to somehow be right about an “Omega” resurrection of all sentient life (i.e., all self-referencing information flows) at the universe’s “big crunch” — or if Tipler is wrong about a “big crunch” as opposed to eternal expansion (which most cosmologists today believe in) and yet there is a beneficent God with some postmortem use for who and what we were during our earthly living years — then I will eventually be reconciled with all the moments and memories that I am trying not to let go of. “In the fullness of time”, as the Catholic liturgies say. As the worn-out pop-philosophy and warmed-over Zen mantra says, I’ve got to learn to let go and just be in the moment. Well, a little more, anyway.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 12:20 pm      

  1. Jim, Well, I think there may be hoarders and then there are hoarders. If I understand some hoarders correctly, they cannot even walk on the floor in their home or rooms; they must walk on top of piles of “stuff”. I was in one house one time (when I was working as a nursing assistant) where there were actually “aisles” where one could walk; the rest of the basement in particular (the rest of the house was not quite so cluttered) was piled high to the ceiling with things neatly in boxes, all remembrances that were precious to the couple that lived there and had lost their adult child in some tragedy who was still young, even though he was an adult. I could certainly understand their need to keep every remembrance they could of life when he was alive.

    You writing set me to thinking about myself. I am not sure if I am somewhat like you or not. I tend to keep things that are currently important to me in what I consider my growth as a person. When things are no longer important to me, because they have been “assimilated” into who I am (or at least that’s the best way I can describe it), I am completely willing and eager (and do) throw them out. I’ve been through several cycles like that in my life; i.e., keeping things until they are no longer important to me and then throwing them out.

    I don’t know. If that’s hoarding, then I guess I too am a hoarder. Maybe it’s semi-hoarding.

    But I also know individuals who have to get rid of everything as soon as they seem to have no immediate use for them. I have also noted that these individuals tend to “run away”, or perhaps I should say use for a coping device what seems like “running away”, or perhaps it’s denial. (The “as long as I don’t see it it doesn’t exist” manner of coping with the problems of life.) They tend not to want to even discuss anything the least bit unpleasant, unless it involves something that will get them out of a bind of some kind. Another thing I’ve noticed about such people is that they like the “option” of being able to “leave fast”. I’m not sure why they want to “leave fast”, but it’s something I’ve noticed. And if it’s not “leave fast”, it’s an option of “if I have to leave, I won’t lose much”. Again, not criticizing; just noting what I’ve observed.

    Who is to say which is the “best”? I have no clue. What difference does it make in the end? I guess hoarding (or semi-hoarding) will make more work for those who have to clean out after one dies. Otherwise, I still say, what difference does it make?

    Then too, if someone lives with another, there must be some kind of rapprochement between the two so that they don’t drive each other nutty. Otherwise, I say, what difference does it make? I say live your life so you feel the way that makes you most happy and comfortable in this life. MCS

    Comment by Mary — June 3, 2013 @ 5:40 pm

  2. Dear Jim, Thanks for your comments on memory.Part of my difficulty recently, is the recognition that I let go a long time ago, and am finding it difficult to accept my losses.Your comments on memory were appropriate here. Particularly since, I am still occasionally struggling with unconscious feelings and memories. I am trying to not deceive myself yet getting older is not for wimps. Today I pray for redemption.From Myself. Thank you again for your website. May God richly Bless you, Frank Penotti

    Comment by frank penotti — June 19, 2013 @ 5:47 pm

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