01. Possessions … and Freedom from Greed

Freedom … from Greed

It is one of the most liberating feelings in the world
to observe people, in general,
speaking, agitating, and rushing frenetically about
in their mad rush to buy the latest technological toy,
sale item, or popular fashion accessory –

and to be, oneself, not the slightest bit interested
in what so evidently controls the thoughts and desires,
commands the attention, and dictates
the actions of the modern multitudes.

Truly, this is Freedom.

Greed – the mindless acquisition of amusements
and vanity toys – is behind the appalling superficiality
of 21st century humanity,

and – for anyone who might seek a life
with more meaning than the constant pursuit
of entertainment and ego –

I can promise that you WILL view the world
– and people – much differently,
once commercial advertising
becomes meaningless to your life.

Everything that I own

In considering the question of HOW one begins to
‘downsize’ one’s belongings,
I suppose the best practical answer would be:

“If you have not used it in the past 18 months,
you probably will never use it again.

[ It will go without saying that this excludes
emergency items such as a torch, batteries,
a Primus Stove, and such like.
These will be stored in a container that is
specifically marked for such things as ‘power outages’,
‘plumbing’, ‘electrical’ &c. ]

With the “18 month” guide, I refer to all
personal and household items,
accumulated acquisitions, and clothing.

A series of photographs below
show the contents of our house …

and – our version of an “attic” – tools, paint tins,
packing boxes, and bits-and-pieces for emergency home repairs …

WHERE and HOW to Begin … ?

There MUST be a sense of realisation – Shame, really –
that you have joined the world in mindless acquisition.
If that “Awakening” is not genuine,
then Do Not attempt to ‘downsize’ or reduce
your possessions … you will only replace them again.

“But, I truly WANT to change my lifestyle;
… How do I begin ?

Set aside those items that you have not used
in the past year and a half or so:
pick up each one, and ask yourself – Out Loud:

“Why did I buy this, exactly?”

Then answer the question – out loud;
talk to yourself:

“I bought it to impress (so-and-so)”,
“I bought it because it was on TV –
because ‘everyone else’ had one”,
“I bought it to feed my Vanity” –
and so on.

Then ask, “What does this do with my time?”
“What does having this do to my mind?”
“Could my time be better used than by
wasting it on this?”

When physically hearing the response –
you may well embarrass, if not shame, yourself.

Once all superfluous junk has been set aside
using that criteria as a starting point,

exercise personal integrity
in examining your own conscience to determine
which possessions most gratify Conceit –

that is,

identifying what things have been bought
in order to “impress”
those who are shallow enough
to actually be impressed by … ‘things’.

A Word of Advice

I would also suggest, however, that
you should not use me as an example:

I do not have one friend in the world
whom I might call up and meet at a cafe
for a frothy coffee:
there are not too many folk
who could live contentedly like that,

and so I would not wish anyone
to reduce their possessions
using what I own as their example …

IF you are determined to ‘downsize’
your own belongings, arrange somewhere
that you can leave the ‘discarded’ items
for a month or so.

If, in that time, your resolve is fixed,
and you truly do not need things
to secure happiness,
then, you may donate the items to charity,
if you so wish.

If it is something that is destructive to mind or morals,
– such as a television, books, CD’s, DVD’s &c. –
you effectively destroy it by taking it to the town dump.

If, on the other hand, the whole exercise was,
for you, a passing fancy … then no ‘harm’ has been done,
and you may freely return to the satisfaction
of your material objects.


Everything that I own has either practical
or sentimental value: there is nothing in our home
that is a ‘fashion statement’ or ‘popular’ product.

I have always believed in quality, dependability,
– craftsmanship: one good item,
rather than three cheap ones.

Taking that little while longer to save one’s pennies
allows one to focus upon whether that item
is really an important and worthwhile purchase.

It removes that desire to ‘collect’ … IF
a self-disciplined mind-set
is behind every future purchase.

By limiting the things that you own
to the narrow and meaningful standard
of definite practical need (clothing),
and sentimental or edifying items (things) only,

you will have effectively removed the superficial dross
of impulse and greed from your life.

What I Own, and Why I Keep It …

Everything that I own is seen in this photograph …

The first of two watertight boxes
contains passport and personal papers.

A second square box protects 96 Kodachrome transparencies
from my days as a military and commercial photographer.

Two black notebooks contain forty years
of quotes from books.
Three books are kept for sentimental value.
And the original typescript of my dissertation
in archival plastic pages.

A plastic ‘under bed’ box carries all my clothes
folded in layers;

This old leather despatch bag accompanies me
wherever I go; and carries what you see –

A business card case as a wallet; uwagi (Jacket);
and two teacups (a personal idiosyncrasy:
going to the expense of buying a frothy Mocha coffee as a treat
does not include sucking it through a slit in the plastic lid
of a paper cup.)

as well as whatever book I happen to be reading at the time.

The shujou (stick) is carved from a Bo (oak staff)

One large duffle bag carries everything the first photograph;
the leather bag hangs at my side;
and my life can be taken with me wherever I happen to go.

Interest in “getting” things, and possessing plastic junk,
simply does not exist.

A Word about Books …

Reading is my entertainment.
Although having given away my library, I must note that,
over the years, the contents of my old books
have been committed (by sheer repetition:

re-reading treasured volumes a dozen times and more)
to my appalling memory … and, in key quotations,
to two notebooks which have served when called upon
to deliver a lecture at short notice.

A very well stocked antiquarian bookshop
provides an admirable and constant source
of quality reading material:
Once a book of interest has been read and re-read,
it is returned to the shop, which, effectively,
buys it back at a small loss to me; credits my ‘account’,
and I can browse for another title of interest.

It is impossible to describe the liberty
– the freedom – from greed …
from constantly ‘wanting’ things,

that comes with a genuine desire and concerted effort
to be rid of extraneous possessions – MOST of which,
have no redeeming merit whatsoever,
and serve only to gratify vanity and waste time.

I can also assure you that,
with the passage of a very brief amount of time,
one begins to look back with embarrassment
at the things that were once regarded as
“important” or “indispensible”.

Conversation, work in the garden;
the real enjoyment of a good book as entertainment,
makes one realise the vacuity and superficiality
with which multitudes conduct their lives

identifying themselves by the … things …
which they own.

For any who may be are considering “thinning out”
their own personal possessions,

I hope that the suggestions presented here
are of use to you, and that you will be congenial
– friendly, and leave a word of greeting.

Yours Sincerely,
P Livingstone

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