We are a consumer culture, businesses built off the fact that we buy and sell things daily. A culture that has fed into the businessmen’s pockets by handing over our money to pile onto our hoard; after all, the taller the stack the higher the social status. New iPhone? Got to have it. New clothing trend? Let’s buy 12 of those. We gather until the acorns are bursting from our cheeks and though our throat is gagging, we still shove more in.
During my move back upstate, I purged my small apartment of unnecessary items. 6 trash bags and 8 donation bags later, I still filled the back seat and trunk of my car and the bed of my father’s truck. I’m still staring at a tub of shoes, literally a storage tub filled with my shoes. These are the “few” that I had deemed necessary to keep.
Humans are driven to keep hold of physical goods for a few reasons: 1. Sentimental Value, 2. Actual Need, 3. Perceived Value. Unfortunately, the perceived value category is where most of our possessions fall into. We make sure we have all the “cool” items in order to simply show them off; if people do not see the evidence of our wealth, then what good is it? I find this thinking backwards. What good is all the stuff and things if their only purpose is to showboat?
I intend on going through all my things again before heading out on the road trip in April to rethink what really needs to stay around. I probably don’t need that fifth pair of boots that I’ve only worn once. The fact is, these really are just stuff and things. We get caught up in the social status of our perceived value, but if there is one lesson that I have learned in the past year, it is that stuff and things cannot replace missed moments. They cannot replace the conversation you may have with a friendly face in the local diner or the sound of a recently thawed creek with the wind whistling through the surrounding trees.
I do not expect young readers to understand this fully, as they have likely (or hopefully) experienced less death. When you stay around long enough to watch others leave, perspectives change. Money does not fill the void, only people can help you through. If the only goal is to show your “friends” how much you own, what life have you really lived? My wealth comes in the form of memories, the knowledge that I have had an impact on a person’s life and they too on mine. The evidence of my salary comes in the form of scars and laugh lines, for my payment effects my actual being rather than a simple perception of status.
If we would take a hard look at this social ladder, we might see that all the stuff and things are barely holding it together, like a Jenga tower ready to collapse with the wrong pull. If we could focus on building a ladder based on character…well, just imagine the world we would be living it.