Where Are We in Our Possessions?

“When you have things,
more and more,
in the end,
the things you own,
start to own you.”

I met this sentence maybe in a song or a book, I do not remember anymore. I remember feeling this sentence was brilliant, but I did not actually experience it. It wasn’t part of “my world”.

Due to my move to Australia, I have been selling what I own. Items such as books, movies, games, furniture, what have you. It has started to feel. When I began it, it was simply selling things. During the whole process, it has started to feel more like crawling from under a pile of things to the crispy sunny daylight where you once again can breathe more freely.

When I started to get rid of things, it was merely out of pragmatic reasons. I reasoned that if it is too expensive to ship things over from Finland, I will sell them. During that time I did not think: to what level should I sell them? Half of them? Only the ones I do not like, find useful or need very often? During the process, it started to feel there is no end to the process. The process itself is transformational, in multiple levels.

It has changed how I view buying and owning concrete physical objects. Any thing(s). Even more, it has started me to question more than ever the fact, why am I buying? What is the actual value of an item? Monetary or/and emotional? Those who like quantitative analysis: please, do justify with numbers why we spend so much money based only to the illusion of a need we have ourselves created through our emotions and illogical reasoning.

It has also made me think about the cloud more often. e-books, e-this and e-that, and how they will eventually replace some areas of concrete items. I love reading a paper book, but I do not like packing and unpacking them. Carrying them in piles, sweating because of the fact someone had not yet invented a better way to pack symbols, i.e. letters, words; narratives of various kinds.

Because this is what books are: in the end, nothing more but an object which function is to contain characters of the alphabet (if your language is using them, that is) in orderly fashion that communicate something. Other functions we assign books are merely emotional based and vanity. I know, I love books. Isn’t it odd: to love a pile of paper containing (usually) black ink?

What is it that we love in this? The feel of the rectangle object we have named as a book? The paper that constructs it? The smell? Or is it merely something intangible such as nostalgia? A memory artifact? Book, as itself, reminds us about something. Someone has written in it the date it was bought from some exotic or not so exotic book store. Someone gave it as a present to you and signed it with “xxx love”? An effective way to prevent us ever letting go of that particular object, now assigned only for us, with love.

Can an e-book ever make us feel like a paper book? As objects, are they of same kind at all? In what level? Why should they be? Is there anything more common with them than the fact they both contain characters and [sometimes] try to maintain a narrative? Maybe Markku Eskelinen can wake ideas in us with his book Cybertext Poetics: The Critical Landscape of New Media Literary Theory.

But what about other things? Things that seem to give us an extended memory? By selling my old table I bought when I left my parents house, am I selling away a piece of my history? Perhaps, but why is it important anyway? Who says history is important or valuable as such; why not the constellation of memories or schemas you carry with you? I have said to have a bad memory, and I admit it. But that is mostly because I do not feel overly important to think things of the past. Does it make one somehow, odd as a human being?

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2 thoughts on “Where Are We in Our Possessions?

    • Thanks for the comment! I think you might be right. By the way: love Waltari’s works.

      When it comes to the idea itself, it is [maybe] unfortunate that too often some of us know this, but do not experience nor thus act upon it.

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