Thursday, April 21, 2005



Possessions and experiences

Marketing people say that you can attract customers with a well placed reference to a dog or a cat. A picture is even better. Having lured you to my blog with a post about cats, and a picture of dogs looking at a cat, I will now give you a free gift.

I’ve called this post “zen.” I use the word zen very loosely, and probably misuse it more than the average person does. What I mean is that I want to give you what I think is the closest I’ve come to discovering a secret of life.

It’s about perceiving the difference between possessions and experiences.

We all know what possessions are. They’re our stuff. But experiences are often things of value in some of the same ways. We pay good money for many of our experiences: A great restaurant meal. Travel. A thrill ride. College. Even if we don’t pay money directly, we go to great lengths to have a lot of experiences. A party, a reunion with friends. A relationship. Sex. Even experiences that are completely unplanned or random can be things of great value to us. Experiences are fleeting, though, and we seem to be able to accept that.

Okay, duh. So what are the words of wisdom? I think we can make ourselves a lot less crazy by thinking about more of our possessions as experiences.

On a small scale, this insight can help you with your spring cleaning. Don’t keep some old junk just because you associate it with an important relationship. Let it become part of the experience of that relationship, and let go of the junk.

Maybe it can help on a larger scale. I sometimes think about people who have had, and then lost, material wealth: war refugees, businesspeople who’ve gone bust, victims of fire or flood. A lot of people in that situation move forward and start their lives over. How do they cope with the loss?

If we can think of some of our grandest possessions as the experience of pleasure or satisfaction we got from them – as for example a particularly great night – it might be easier to let them go. At the end of the day – or more to the point at the end of our lives – aren’t all our possessions, right down to our bodies, mere experiences?


I like this post a lot.


I think you should write about the difference between "eager" and "anxious" now.
One problem is that many of my small possessions hold the memories for me and I find that when I have cleaned them away, the memory of the experience loses strength, as if it has become untethered and is unwinding.
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