I reached into my desk to grab a pen only to have a pile of other pens and detritus stand in my way. A few more seconds of a life pulled into the reality of objects as I fumbled to find the pen I was looking for. I stopped to ponder how much of my life have I wasted in the useless day to day interactions with things.
Disgusted and annoyed, I've culled the contents of my desk to the bare minimum. A desk full of pens is ridiculous especially when all they do is to prevent you from effortlessly pulling out the right pen.
Maybe the Japanese are on to something.
I've been spending my time culling the excess things and recurring tasks that needlessly take up too many moments of my life. Largely, it's a question of focus, and each thing I have to interact with has a switching cost. My mind has to switch and focus on whatever "thing" it is. Do this often enough and it turns into a real amount of time wasted. I find even having to "consider" a thing involves a switch of focus. I think about my house and its cracked foundation and uninsulated walls. I think about the server machines here. Each machine involves a recurring amount of work and a huge TODO list associated with it. Each bill, each vehicle, each piece of equipment incurs it's own subtle recurring cost both in time and switched focus. Each thing pulls you out of a moment.
While I was Out There my time was not so filled with things, but instead with thoughts. Sure, I had a motorcycle and the gear that went with it, but somehow it was manageable, my interactions with them somehow limited. It was a moment in time that obviously could not last. Maybe it was so good for me because all the things fit together congruously into a common theme allowing me to have one thought, one focus. Since I've gotten back I've been struck by how much time is spent with things. I've toured beautiful houses that took years of work to put together. I driven in cars that took years to get "just right". Most of the things in an average day since I've gotten back have in one way or another had to do with things. Most of the conversations I've had, aside from the ones about my trip, have been centered around things. Houses. Cars. Boats. Motorcycles. Helmets. Jackets. Air conditioning units. Insulation. Servers. Garages. Tools. Things, things and more things.
Contrast that to the conversations Out There. Dreams. Aspirations. Travel. Insights. Feelings. Culture. Philosophy. Prose. Lessons. Taking Risks, Opening Doors and Putting Demons to rest.
Indeed, there's a certain lack of reality to my time out on the road, but I think I prefer focusing on the latter rather than the former.
Friends have asked me why on earth don't I get a new bike. They have told me stories of things, given the opportunity, that they would want to buy. My emotional reactions to all of this has changed so completely. It's as if I recoil at the thought of acquisition.
For years, I ran a voicemail PBX server here because I thought that maybe that expertise would be useful in some contracting opportunities. Those opportunities never materialized but I continued to run the server.
In a move that is completely out of character for me, I've moved the voicemail to an online service called my1voice.com and shut down the voicemail server. It's actually cheaper than the telephone line itself cost. In a way, doing something like that goes against the grain and is not easy for me. I come from a background where I feel as if I should do everything myself. Many of my friends, especially when it comes to cars and houses, feel very strongly that they must do everything themselves.
But now I have one less machine to deal with and as a result a little more time to think and it is good.
There's been a big theme developing since I've gotten back. I made decisions that made sense in a certain context but did not re-evaluate those decisions once the context changed. As I've mentioned previously in this blog, many of the decisions I've made were for a context that never materlized.
So I look through the things that take my attention away from where I would like my attention focused.
I will continue to cull and see how much I can simplify my life. Thus far I've been focusing on the easy things that I never use or that have long since out-lived their usefulness. Then I will move onto the things that, in the past, I thought would be a bigger part of my future. Discarding those past futures will be more difficult. "I'll eventually get back to playing guitar.", I often think. But I wonder how realistic that is. Maybe I should just get unload the guitars; maybe I will keep just one.
I wonder what other past futures I have held onto long after the possibility of that future has evaporated?
As I rummaged through my desk looking for things to cull I came across a bundle of ancient fortune cookie fortunes that I had superstitiously preserved. These date back probably more than 10 years. It's strange what one will hold on to for no good reason. I've looked at the pile and thought I should do something with them.
For idle amusement I read through them:
You will attract cultured and artistic people to your home.
You are not a person that can be ignored.
Traveling this year will bring your life into greater perspective.
Genius does what it must and talent what it can.
You will take a chance in something in the near future.
Give time and thought to all that you do.
Excitement and intrigue follow you closely wherever you go.
Happy news is on it's way to you.
Fame, riches and romance are yours for the taking.
As soon as you feel too old to do a thing, do it.
Don't be hasty, prosperity will knock on your door soon.
You will enjoy good health, you will be surrounded by luxury.
You will win success in whatever you adopt.
A close friend reveals a hidden talent.
Now is the time to try something new.
Your financial outlook looks great.
Speak your mind tonight.
Some people never have anything except ideas. Go do it.
And with that, these small strips of paper I have held onto for so long have now been flung into recycling.