Poverty amid plenty

I am taking a video inventory at the rental house, in case it burns to the ground.

My voice is clinical and flat as I pan the camera around each room, peering into cupboards, narrating. Here in the kitchen, we have an electronic food scale and a manual scale, we have pots and pans brought from the house to the rental, also we have serving dishes, glass canisters, an espresso machine …

Video is the quickest way to do an inventory, for insurance purposes, but there is a trauma to this performance.

It feels similar to reading old diaries. Stirs up a million details of life in a way that can be nauseating.

I imagine that the brain, having carefully sorted and stored this information, has no mechanism to cope with the sudden onslaught of details from old memories.

Objects are even worse than journal-bound memories. Each object is vested with a million memories – wanting it, shopping for it, buying it, using it, misusing it, storing it, wanting to use it, neglecting it. So many objects – paints and brushes and canvases, electronic photo frames, pressure cooker, dressy clothes – are fraught with reminders about what I have not accomplished, what I meant to do but failed to do.

I trudge on, room by room, cataloging all these items so that I could at least recover their full replacement cost if our mountain community catches fire.

While I am recording the jumble of electronics, cords and devices that crowd our office space, a single word comes into my mind: Impoverished.

That might seem a strange word to cover an abundance of possessions. But this is what my unconscious perceived in an instant: Having so many things and so much of it unused can symbolize a poverty of spirit.

I invest so much time, energy, and money in buying, maintaining, storing, moving, and eventually disposing of all these objects. What could I have accomplished if I’d lived my life as a monk, with only a few possessions?

A vow of poverty might have enriched me.

I finish the videos and shove the camera in my backpack. Now I have a record. In case I never see these things again.

Today’s penny is a 2012, the last time I did a video inventory.


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