The Weekly Good/ Two Suitcases

The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.
— Hans Hoffman
 Image: Creative Commons  

Image: Creative Commons

The daily good today is not one thing, but two: two suitcases.

I bought two suitcases today: they are black and big and have a hard shell, and they sit in middle of my bedroom, waiting.

I'm not going anywhere yet. I bought them to fill. I bought them to limit myself, limit my possessions.

I've been working on simplicity for some time: I have gotten rid most of my clothes and books and sentimental objects. But I knew I needed to have more self discipline, especially where I live. In the United States, we are bombarded with information that does its best to convince us that we need more. More of everything. Despite my hard earned self discipline, I often tempted by things of beauty, color, and well as books, paper, and little things.

I felt having the suitcases and limiting what I owned to what could fit inside them would be an exercise that was both poignantly practical and deeply spiritual. I suppose , too, the idea of the suitcases is symbolic. Letting go and filling are recurrent themes in my life.

As I stood in the shop staring at all the varieties to choose from, I felt a little overwhelmed. There were so many kinds: I'd thought it would be a simple decision. But it turned out that choosing the suitcases to store your life in is actually quite difficult. There are the distractions of texture, of color, feel. But the biggest distract is the finality of such a choice.

I choose two, and bought them, and took them home. I lugged them up the stairs and stood looking at them, kind of astonished that the space they took up would represent my material existence on this planet. I will admit that I cried a little, for it is a letting go of the highest order to attend to such a task.

On the other hand, there is a methodical joy that comes with choosing carefully. I don't think there is anything quite like it. It's always interesting when I come to this choice (for I have simplified to this extent a few times in my life) that people try to reassure me, telling me I can store things with a friend, for example. But we are not here long enough to really need to store things with anyone. We have the ability to be freed of things, and it is good for us to choose total freedom.

It is good for me, anyway.

The last time I made this choice I was preparing for journey around the world. Oh, the agony of giving my things that I had loved away! It was swift and cutting, and my attachments were many. I did actually store a few boxes with a friend, and when I returned some years later, I was kind of appalled at the material objects I had thought had value, because they had none to me after my journey. I learned from that. I learned that sentiment is not terribly useful, as things don't represent memory: stories do.

I've been cutting loose more than material things these days. I'm cutting loose people, ideas, fears. Some days it feels like I am a snake, constantly shedding one skin for another new one, over and over and over. This can be both exhausting and rejuvenating. But I know that these peeled layers are not useful and do not fit with who I am, and even if I want them to belong, they don't. Life is short and unknown, and I've found that is important to understand timing. There is not time to make wishful mistakes, there is only time to choose as wisely as I can. Sometimes this hurts, but it then again, it feels good at the same time. Letting go is an act of being in the moment and being present, rather than reacting to the past, which is what attachment is based on.

During this life of mine, I feel quite directed and purposeful. My inner life, inner world, is quite complicated. I have lengthy dialogues and conversations with myself and my past selves which need attending; I have writing set out for the coming year, and very little time to think about other things. This is why simplicity works for me: it gives me a clearing, a space in my head to make room for writing.

This Christmas week I have a few days off, and I've decided not to write during that time, but instead to fill those two suitcases and get rid of the things I don't need. It is a physical act, but it is also a mental one too. It is creating a clearing and a space that is in alignment with my goal for 2015: to make words and the act of writing holy.

Holy. Meaning sacred, consecrated, divine.

There is not enough space in these suitcases or in my world for things or thoughts or people which distract from that purpose, which is a new way of looking at writing: it is not solely a craft, it is a calling. I think choosing the word holy puts everything in a different light, and I find, already, that I am beginning to see the temporal quality of what is around me.

And now, I'm going to go pack for the rest of my life. I am looking forward to choosing what I love, what I need, and the ease of choice after the suitcases are full.