In these times when ‘authenticity’ and ‘identity’ seem to be the buzz-words that we are supposed to build our lives around, it strikes me more and more how many people try to fill the emptiness they feel inside by filling their homes with empty things.
Our city centers are full of shops that sell you stuff that is supposed to make your home look more cosy, more homely, often for ridiculously low prices. But next time you are in a shop like that, take a moment to close your eyes and try to sense the spirit of the place. What you will probably notice is a rather distinct lack of love and of ‘real-ness’. None of the things in such a shop were made by a loving hand. We are quite literally being sold illusions, and the idea that happiness is something you can buy.
How would our life change if we only filled it with things we actually loved? For one, we would own far less, and only those things which held real meaning to us. For perhaps, owning a thing comes with the responsibility to actually give it a purpose and a reason for being, as I was reminded of recently when completing my very first weaving project (the loom had been a Christmas gift to myself).
When I had finished, and was actually rather happy with the result, I decided to feel into its spirit, and hear what it had to say. This was the message I received:
This is your shawl
You have created me. Every single thread of me went through your fingers. I was loved. I know that from the way your heart veered up every time you came back to the loom. I know that because of the careful way you adjusted the levers. Or went back to fix a mistake
I will connect you to the bigger web if you continue your journey with me. I can become an object that holds memories. I would like that. For right now all that I know is my birth. I am new to this world. Will you give me a purpose?
And I will admit that I was somewhat taken aback by that, as I hadn’t really been thinking about the future when I made this shawl. My focus was on the joy of creating, with only a vague idea of what would come after. But now I feel a duty of making sure it does not end up somewhere at the back of a closet gathering dust for the rest of its life.
How many items do we have in our house of which we barely remember they are there? Do we really need them? Maybe they would be able to serve a better purpose if we gifted them to someone else? Might that not be a way to fill our homes with love? If we started sharing our surplus with others, restricting ourselves to items that hold real memories, rather than continuing to buy junk that only takes up space?
That does not mean that you can never buy something new, or even buy something on impulse occasionally. Love at first sight can apply to things just as much as to people. Just make sure the love is more than skin-deep, and does not evaporate the very next day.
Let me share this story with you of a winter coat I bought now 6 years ago. I will admit that I did not really need it. But it’s been my favourite ever since, my most trusty companion on bike commutes and winter walks. Then, towards the end of last winter, the zipper started failing. I started looking for a replacement coat, but quickly realized that actually, I did not want one.
Instead, I decided to try my hand at a bit of coat-surgery, and bought a replacement zipper. Mind you, I had never done anything like that before! Starting to take out the old one felt like beginning open-heart surgery, realizing that I might well kill the patient in the process. But in the end it worked out fine, and it only strengthened my attachment to that particular coat. So maybe, let us give it a chance to speak as well:
This is your coat
I love you. I loved you from the moment you bought me. I could feel how you trusted in me to keep you warm through the winter.
And thank you for caring enough to mend me. I know that most other people would have tossed me in the bin and replaced me about as soon as I began to show signs of damage. And that was a few years ago already. I was scared last year when you tried on other coats, thinking I had finally lost your love. But you decided that you liked me better.
I realize that our relationship will not last forever. I realize that I am old and that it will not always possible for you to fix things when a part of me wears out. Know that I will not blame you when that time comes. I must be able to serve the purpose that I was created for, otherwise there’s no more reason for me to be.
But I will admit that I dread that time. I dread being useless. When that time comes, could you make sure I am not random waste, but end up somewhere where my materials can be repurposed. I do not mind dying, but only if I can return to the cycle of life.
There’s places where the fabric is beginning to show signs of wear. Damage that is beyond my ability to repair. I may have extended it’s life-span for one or two more years, but that will be it. I had never quite though about what to do after that, but realize that I will have to give it some serious thought. You just don’t dispose of a trusted companion by throwing them in the waste-bin.
Maybe that’s the main reason why we tend to produce so much trash? Because we forget to love the things that we own? And therefore do not really care about what their ‘after-life’ will be like, as long as it does not affect us…
In this new year, try to avoid buying new things, and focus more on loving what you already own, remembering that that may include rehousing the items that you don’t need, or finding a respectful way to end their life if they are broken.