The question at the end of my previous blog entry seems to have ruffled a few feathers. Although the gist of my question should have had nothing to do with possessions, Faith's comment suggests otherwise and my other two readers & commentators have joined in with alacrity, making the same assumption perhaps.
I've been thinking about this.
In my jumble of last week's preoccupations I mentioned films, sheet music, books and other things to read, most of which could have been accessed from a public library, I admit. However, going to the library would have entailed several more excursions, not exactly simplifying my day-to-day existence or saving me time, so it's probably just as well we had all that stuff on our own shelves. I also mentioned TV shows. We don't own a TV set; all the same I was watching those programmes because we were staying at a hotel we couldn't have reached without a vehicle, in this case an aeroplane, an extravagant possession indeed, although Chris argues a strong case for its positive uses. He gave five children a ride in it yesterday and that, so he reckons, must surely have a beneficial ripple effect! Likewise the music making that wouldn't happen if we didn't own any instruments, but if it ever comes to obeying Jesus' recommendation to
sell all you have and give to the poor
let me state here and now that those particular possessions will be the last to go, because they're tantamount to living things. The plants I'm propagating/buying/coveting are definitely living things; should I get rid of them, too? We could throw or give away our computers, thus gaining time (although that's debatable—I drafted this blog in handwriting this morning which took ages), money (certainly) and a tiny fraction of the world's electricity supply, but then our precious virtual link to our family and friends overseas would be cut, not to mention the reminders of them in .jpg format, and that would be hard for me to bear.
Am I clinging too much?
Chris' spirited defence of his own possessions has to do with their educational value, with the fact that they make him more knowledgeable or his life more efficient. Although I'm not sure whether he had a clue what I was talking about, I pointed out that this constant striving for betterment was a western aspiration:
Es irrt der Mensch solang er strebt
as Goethe put it in his Faust, whereas other cultures may see the purpose of life as simply being—being alive to the full—not struggling for self-imposed accomplishments or identities.
I keep thinking of the elderly Swiss lady we used to visit ca. 1980 with the Quakers of Bern whose possessions amounted to her very basic kitchen equipment, her narrow bed, chest of drawers, table and a few upright chairs. She did have a small bookshelf but one by one she was giving away her books (commentaries on the Bible, mostly). There was a wonderful serenity about her little sunlit apartment and about her, one of the few people I've met who had really managed both to simplify her life and de-clutter her mind. However, I ought to add that this was a single lady who could live (or die) in the way she chose, without that choice impinging upon anybody else's. Most of the rest of us don't have such freedom.
Sorry, Faith, I haven't yet begun to consider the other things to be jettisoned that were on your list, viz. my "habits" or my sense of "security". Well, I'm not going to dwell on my bad habits today as it's my Birthday and I want to remain cheerful, and "security" could cover a multitude of things both good and bad. Any further elucidation as to what you meant?