Valuation

November 08, 2004

The death of Michele's father last weekend has given me a sharper focus on what is really important and what isn't. In spite of my efforts to be otherwise, I am still driven at times by the need for material possessions or wealth. I can easily produce a list of objects I would like to own, from a home of my own design down to new books and movie DVDs. Hardly egregious stuff to be sure, but the crux of the problem isn't the object desired, but in the desire itself. Unrequited desire is an indication of a need not being met. Repeatedly feeding the need for new objects, only to find acquisition hasn't satiated the desire, is just a form of insanity. Stopping the cycle of blindly feeding an obsessive need is the path to truly feeding the desire underneath.

In the harsh light of Dan's death I have been thinking long and hard about my own life, wondering what will happen upon the occasion of my death. When I sit back and I look at the physical accumulation of objects that clutters my life I find that they are meaningless. Precious trinkets that have huge sentimental value from my perspective will be just so much junk for my survivors to throw away. For years whenever I moved I had piles of boxes, some of which hadn't been opened since the previous move, to cart along with me. This past spring I managed to throw away and estimated 3000 pounds of accumulated crap. And even after that effort we still have two 5 x 10 x 10 storage lockers stuffed with belongings; books, tapes, CD music, DVD movies, clothes, and furniture. The physical presence of these things is an indication of a deep unmet need for fulfillment, for safety, for comfort.

Not that I don't have fulfillment in some areas of my life, or that I don't have safety and comfort available to me. It's just that I am not really listening to my self and addressing the deepest needs I have. It is easy to meet the surface needs of affiliation and fellowship. Anyone can put on a good show and maintain a surface relationship with family, friends, and work acquaintances. The real trick is stripping away all the surface obfuscation and exposing your true self to yourself. Most of us are so good at fitting into the surface deep world that we stop there and lie to ourselves that any unmet desires are our fault for not fitting in to the world well enough. Don't believe me? Look at all the diet books on the shelves, or all the makeover shows on television. From early childhood we are taught to fit in, to "go along to get along", and most egregious of all, "to do unto others as you would have them do unto you." What a miserable way to exist.

I am human and therefore frail and given to failure. Life is nothing if not a huge experiment in trial-and-error learning. I would like to promise to myself that the experience of Dan's death has given me not only new clarity about the truly important, but also renewed impetus towards meeting the goal of living for myself and meeting my true needs. I would like to do that, but I suspect that the constant weight of the world will wear me down again. Before long I'll be trying to meet my desires through objects and attachments to possessions. I've put all this down into words so that when I start to feel helpless and tossed about in the choppy surface water of life, I can once again trust myself to deeper, smoother currents of truth that lie beneath the surface.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.