Things Can Really Hang You Up the Most

The content of this post was written by my friend, Paul Overton, teacher, creator, seeker, writer,  Renaissance man, and as you’ll soon read, active liberator of spaces. He shared it on facebook earlier today, and it kind of blew my mind. It has been reproduced here in its entirety with his permission. You are invited follow him at https://www.facebook.com/dudecraft.

It’s five a.m. and I’m sitting on the floor of my apartment with a shirt in each hand, trying to decide whether to keep either of them. I have been doing this for ten minutes, and god knows how long it might go on.

I’m supposed to have a simple rule in place that keeps these things from happening: If I haven’t worn it or used it in the last two months, it goes. But the practical side of downsizing is always more complicated. The first few items are easy. Stuff I haven’t used, worn, or looked at in a year or more goes without a second thought. “Good job!”, I tell myself. “You’re really editing now!” But when you get down to three or four-hundred possessions, your stuff starts to put up a fight, and what seems like a straightforward “stay or go” proposition can become so fraught with emotion and nostalgia that a sort of object paralysis sets in. I can spend hours weighing the pros and cons of a potato peeler if I’m not careful, and the importance of that decision can balloon in significance until it seems as crucial as choosing a university or investing in the stock market.

It sounds insane. And it is, in a way. It’s addict behavior. I am asking a part of my brain to do the opposite of what it has been conditioned to do and, unsurprisingly, it’s fighting me every step of the way…inventing justifications and playing on my emotions to prevent me from simplifying my life. But, why? Why are my attachments to things so hard to break?

Aside from the obvious social conditioning that we have all been subjected to that tells us to constantly consume, rather than pay attention to what’s actually important, I think it has to do with fear. My brain knows that if I get rid of all the non-essential possessions in my life, then my focus may shift from thinking about what I might buy next to what I might do with all the freedom that comes along with voluntary simplicity…and that is terrifying. “What happens then?”, says my brain, as it’s flipping out about the unknown and imbuing things like lemon zesters with inflated significance. “What happens if you fight your programming and become radically free from the urge to hold onto useless things? Then what will we do?”

My brain, in actuality, would rather not know the answer to that question…because it would mean a foundational change in my way of being…and that means a lot of work. My brain hates to break habits when I ask it to, and this would be the biggest one I’ve ever set it to work on.

It also knows that by making big shifts that appear to be abnormal by society’s standards, my relationships may be affected, and my brain is afraid of being seen as a weirdo, or rather, MORE of a weirdo. It just wants me to assimilate and be comfortable with the routine. Work, buy stuff, keep an eye on the Joneses, blend in, etc. But that’s not what my gut, or soul, or higher self is interested in. My soul, for lack of a less woo-woo word, wants to see what’s possible. It knows that stuff is meaningless and that, out there beyond it, is something infinitely more interesting. It knows that shedding objects may be the first step in shedding a multitude of other fears, self-limiting beliefs, and habits that my brain has been steadfastly maintaining for decades…and it has a strong suspicion that if we can manage to get over this hilltop, we might see something that resembles the truth and sets us free.

This is the thought that I’m keeping in front of me as my brain tries to convince me that because a shirt says Brooks Brothers on it, it has some kind of intrinsic value beyond its “shirtness”. Twenty minutes in, I’m fed up and I quickly stuff both shirts in the Goodwill bag while my brain isn’t looking, and then throw the bag in my car before it has a chance at any further protest. I might regret it, but I probably won’t.

Like it or not…we’re doing this, brain.

The stuff in her dad’s garage

A little over seven years ago, a friend invited me to meet her parents at their home in San Jose. Her father had amassed a collection of stuff in the garage, and she asked me to bring my camera in case I was inclined to photograph it.

Having been told little about what to expect, but assured I’d be interested in what was there, I was prepared for a garage packed to the gills scenario.

We arrived at the house where she grew up and rang the doorbell. Her mother met us at the front door, and said she’d see us at the garage. We walked back toward the car and waited a few minutes on the driveway for the wide double door to rise.

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Musings on divestment past, present and future

In short: it just doesn’t make sense for universities to invest in a system that will leave their students no livable planet to use their degrees on, or for pension funds to invest in corporations that will ruin the world we plan to retire in. The one thing we know the fossil fuel industry cares about is money. Universities, pension funds, and churches invest a lot of it. If we start with these local institutions and hit the industry where it hurts — their bottom line — we can get their attention and force them to change. This was a key part of how the world ended the apartheid system in South Africa, and we hope it can have the same effect on the climate crisis.

from http://math.350.org/

Let me start by saying that the quote above is as far as I’ll go with regard to the examination of the oil industry and climate change. Plenty of people can, have, and will speak about these topics in ways that far exceed my ability and desire to do so. For instance, there’s my partner, Sven, who reported on a lunchtime interview with Bill McKibben as I snapped away with my cameras to document the event. This is about something more: it’s about taking action in alignment with our values.

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH Continue reading

“Local sustainable movies”

sign in window of Lost Weekend, a San Francisco video storeWhat’s sustainable here?

This is the window of Lost Weekend Video, one of a handful of San Francisco’s independently-owned video stores. It’s my neighborhood video store, and it’s accessible via a quick jaunt or pedal down the street and around the corner. On these chilly winter nights, it’s a place to reassure myself that I’m not the only one with a hankering to cozy up under a blanket and watch a film.

The store’s offerings are circulated without the aid of postage and disposable plastic mailers. It’s people powered – you go there to choose what you want. You swing by a day or few later and return it when you’re finished. You can chat with the owner and his staff about the latest releases, their favorite music, politics, and more. You can run into friends and neighbors. You can even bring your dog, or say hello to the dogs of strangers that are patiently waiting for a treat at the counter. Those treats are procured from another local independently-owned store just up the street.

This is the kind of business that is disappearing from the American landscape. Please, do what you can to support your local businesses. You’ll be supporting your neighbors and keeping your dollars circulating in your community. When you buy from an independent, sometimes you pay a little less, sometimes you pay a little more, but either way, the exchanges and rewards of the interactions are always priceless. The benefits outweigh the savings. In fact, you’ll be earning more!