I have a 4 month supply of canned beans, chili and salsa in the kitchen cabinet. It’s because I don’t know what I already have, and I keep buying more.
I am accidentally excessive. But it seems like a symptom; too much capacity for sustenance, too much winning.
While I can find many things about me and my life lacking (everyone can I am sure), with a good accounting it seems more about excess, specifically about too much not being enough.
There’s specific neurosis/anxiety around this for some, hoarders and such, but mine comes from indifference (at least in this case), and a casually wrong estimation of supply and need.
The ‘winning’ is possible because, simply, I have too much capacity to buy, and the price is too low to make it something painful, something to notice. People with much less earnings than I can still afford this indifference, and on the other hand, I imagine there are people who have too much capacity to buy thousand dollar items. So there is some sense of place on the scale of indifference to spending, where we can locate ourselves in the present. And there’s the historic moment where we can all express more economic power to buy as never before (color tv, air travel, transportation), as well as afford this indifference at some level.
The fact one can spend and not lose, that we can store, also means there is security and stability as a backdrop for this “too much of not enough”.
In Oakland have a warehouse that I store things in, and its not used for much else, with locks on doors and a fence. Outside along Wood street are many homeless, who accumulate many things that spill over from their shelters into the street. The area attracts a lot of illegal dumping too. In a concentrated space are different types of excess, those who have the capacity to be excessive and secure the goods, those who accumulate it and rely on its relative worthlessness, along with their presence and their community to secure it, and what is worthless and needs to be expediently disposed of, what must become ownerless, as there is no vessel to contain it.
And yet worth and worthlessness are local, relative to this place, this urban area, this part of the country, this country, which is a kind of meta-container guiding collective judgement, and independent action, on what to do with all this stuff. Pick up each of our piles, or those now unclaimed, and dump them in a very different place across the world, and the rush to ownership and value would change rapidly.
It’s not in the thing itself, and only modified by how the thing is used or guarded. Treasure becomes trash, or the other way around. What the saying omits is … what do we become when our treasure is trash, or our trash is treasure? And is what we then do, our next action, guided by a sense we have of that thing, such as its “usefulness”, or what we can exchange it for, or our emotions about it? In arrogance we might say it doesn’t matter, we downsize and minimalize to express our mastery and independence from imposed values, those who can afford to.
But it seems for me, independent of the specifics, what I have, what I own, what I keep, what I justify, that this highly relative economy of stuff, consumed or simply kept, wanted or needed or just fetishized, is something about desire, something elusive, like a cup filled that never reaches the top, one I sip from but it doesn’t explain where the liquid has gone, where the level is always something other than I thought, in a dreamlike way. I can’t get a grip on it.
And it seems this unknowable and inestimable aspect of desire suggests something deeper, that at it’s core I am spending too much of what I don’t know, and on what I don’t need.
And this suggests an even more fundamental, root problem, that I have too much canned beans, chili and salsa, enough for 4 months! And that is what I must now contend with.