Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Keeping Track

I like having things that I like having—bicycles, bike gear, cooking utensils, books, a few select articles of clothing—but the problem for me with having them is having them.

I spend much too much time in my life trying to track down and keep track of the things I have. Just this morning, for instance, I wandered about the house for a good quarter of an hour trying to locate the top to one of the three thermoses I own, two of which I really only keep for parts.

It’s an old complaint: in many ways, the things we own own us.

While my bikes, for example, provide me with a kind of sustenance—or at least, perform a needed function—it’s me who takes care of them rather than the other way around.

In Plato’s dialogue, the Euthyphro, Socrates points out that the thing that is cared-for is improved by the thing that cares for it rather than the other way around. Consequently, any “care” that humans give to the gods can’t really be improving them; at best, it’s impertinent to suggest that, at worst, simply misguided.

By analogy, while we imagine that all the things we own make our lives better, it’s really on us to take care of them.

I don’t mind when it comes to some things: one of my most consistent satisfactions is tweaking the two-wheelers to make them run better.

On the other hand, I’d happily go the rest of my life without having to sew another button back on.

With the holidays coming up, it’s a given that we’ll soon have a few more things to look after. I myself am counting on being responsible for a couple new pairs of underwear and several recently-released CDs, for example.

Do I expect, therefore, that my life will become that much more complex? Perhaps, unless I winnow out some of the things I currently own.

Goodwill Industries, here I come.


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