Do you consider yourself a collector? Maybe not material things, but perhaps more fancy, abstract things like memories and experiences? Or…just followers? It’s Instagram followers, isn’t it?
Well, no judgment here!
Collect away, in whatever way makes you happy. As long as it’s not pristinely preserved bodies of young, nubile bunnies in Barbie doll boxes. Was that oddly specific?
We all go through this life collecting something or other, because we all yearn to have something to call our own, something we can cherish when our life flashes before our eyes. Even monks with no attachment to the physical plain collect comestibles to consume and stories on manuscripts, or wine in jars and coins in cups.
Why should we care about what we collect?
As a famous book says, store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
By understanding what you collect, you will find what your heart desires.
What if life were just a game? A game you could reset at will whenever you pleased?
Have you ever wondered what your life would be like if you were born in a different city, a difference country, into a different family, as a different person? How different you would be from the person you are now?
Or would you be exactly the same? Would you not want to change a thing?
Because thinking such thoughts is pointless and silly, right?
No man or woman can change their starting character or select the circumstances of their birth. No one can just reroll the die and reset the game at will, right?
But is it wrong to entertain such thoughts?
I’m not suggesting I’m entirely unhappy with my lot in life, but I wouldn’t blame others that do. Others who dream of a different life but without the means to change it.
Perhaps that’s why we believe in the afterlife or reincarnation. That these circumstances we’re in is just a febrile dream, a cosmic joke that we’re forced to see through.
If you’ve ever wondered how different your life could have been if you had been a different race or ethnicity or gender or size, or in a different time or place surrounded by different people, remember this: you’re not alone.
It’s how you make the best of it that matters, I suppose.
In this dream I awoke in an unfamiliar house and I discovered that the front door opened into a large swimming pool. And floating serenely atop this tranquil tract of water was a live leatherback turtle taking a break from its shell.
And this is what it looked like:
Don’t ask me why it had a comically compact body, but it didn’t seem to mind at all.
As we hurtle endlessly through the Great Void at breakneck speed, have you ever wondered – are we actually getting anywhere?
We’re just spinning round in circles, aren’t we?
Kept in check by our toasty Sun’s gravitational field, adrift in a dark, cold emptiness that is supposedly gradually expanding. And by expanding I imagine they mean that everything is lazily drifting outwards, like debris being sucked out to sea.
And if we aren’t experiencing universal drift, then we’re basically ending up back where we started, aren’t we?
As my physics teacher taught me, if you end up back at your starting point, then your total displacement is zero, which means your velocity is zero, which mean you did shit-all.
So what did I get up to today? Does it ultimately matter?
What did you get up to? Are you experiencing this brief life to the max?
Reading this over, I can only surmise that it must make me sound super depressed or tired of life or something. But really I’m just pondering the meaning of life and all that, which is something people do when they’re bored. I guess that would make philosophers some of the most bored people on the planet.
Anyway, we’ll continue spinning on our little ball of moss, keeping each other warm just like our cheery little sun. Off you go then!
In the end when all is said and done, life is fragile, isn’t it?
As our eyesight fades and our memory meanders into meaninglessness, do you sometimes wonder what is the point in it all?
Why do we toil and fight and rise and fall day after day after day?
Why do we resist entropy? Why do we resist death?
Perhaps it is no surprise that the thought of death rises so swiftly to the forefront of our minds as of late. After all, we are nearing the second Christmas of a global pandemic, a post-apocalyptic optimistic new normal that should go down nicely in our history books, just like the Spanish Flu did. Wait, did they teach that in our history books?
I thought not. Like many random and meaningless events, it too will be lost in our global memory, swept under the floorboards like a bad dream that left a sour taste in the mouth. Or a lack of taste, I should say.
However, in spite of this constant threat of death, these thoughts of doom and gloom were not Covid inspired. To be fair, when is there not a constant looming threat of death?
In an eerie series of events in the past weeks, the reaper has reared its rickety head and presented itself at my neighbours’ doors on many occasions, until I cannot but heed its steady rapping and tapping.
It began with a mysterious disappearance. My significant other’s relative decided he would take a drive out to the salty coast of Negeri Sembilan to get some sea breeze, and ended up abandoning his car in the dunes of Port Dickson, never to be heard or seen. Despite a somewhat unstable past (don’t worry, no horses were hurt), it seemed a bit out of character to be a disappearing act for this boy. I like to imagine he was inspired by the film Into The Wild, where the protagonist valiantly and somewhat recklessly abandons his life and cuts off all contact with his past to experience the natural world to its fullest, to return to nature on his own terms.
Spoilers aside, it did not end well for a number of characters in the surrounding subplots recently. Our cat was found cold and curled up in an old shirt; several colleagues lost their loved ones; my significant other lost her grandmother. And there I was binge watching Sean Lock standup videos.
Spoiler: RIP to the legendary Sean Lock, said every single top comment of every single video.
I watched Dune (the latest one), and despite the stunning visuals, poignant acting and compelling plot (I’ve read the novel and have always loved it, and they did it more justice than I could ever put down in words), I couldn’t help but be saddened by the immense loss of life, albeit highly dramatised fictional loss.
Spoiler: some characters may not be returning for Part Two.
Extra spoiler: yes there is at least one sequel.
To avoid more spoilers, just go read the darn book. It’s a bit of a slow start, but once you get used to all the gibberish words (Mr. Herbert enjoyed crafting his own vernacular) it’s quite the ride!
It amazes me that it took decades and decades of special effects and computer graphics and visual bumfuckery to finally be able to achieve what this mastermind of imagination concocted back in the 60’s. It took the glorious mind of Mr. Villeneuve (I had to Google how to spell that) and Hans Zimmer and a ridiculous boatload of A-list actors to craft an epic science fiction masterpiece that could live up to the opus dei that is Frank Herbert’s Dune.
I was rather miffed that they gave away the sandworm riding so early on, because that was a major mindblowing moment for me in the novel, and in the film they almost casually toss it in, like some dude just randomly surfing the sand seas.
Wait until you find out where melange comes from.
Now that I think about it, they never once use the term melange in the movie…
Also the tone of the film is a little different from the novel, with the focus being drawn heavily to the local indigenous population of the battle-scarred planet of Arrakis. The novel focuses primarily on Paul of the house Atreides and his compatriots, while this film almost hijacks it by portraying a lot of it through Chani and sparkly dream sequences.
Anyway, this has somehow become a movie review. My point was that the film portrays loss and death very viscerally and directly and it does not shy away from the rather unsightly nature of the whole affair. Although not as graphic as Game of Thrones and its modern fantasy ilk, Dune is certainly a violent writhing mass of slaughter and…game of thrones, with great houses and factions vying for control of the known universe through the control of resources that come from this parched planet of pulverised spice.
So yes, you could say that death is at the forefront of my mind.
However, while it is something I contemplate greatly at times, it is not something I would consider myself partaking of, at least not prematurely.
I doubt I will go by my own hand.
Is that something I should be contemplating?
I see death somewhat romantically, cheesy even.
I see death as a celebration, as a brief flicker of a bright flame on a stodgy little birthday candle. Out, out brief candle as a lord once exclaimed.
For there to be death, there must first have been life. And so death is a celebration that there once was life, that there once was some degree of activity and vibrancy, a spark of joy and lust and growth and sadness.
All our lives we battle against the forces of nature and physics, defy gravity and entropy and the elements. We rise slowly and quickly and raise our fists to the sky and each other. And at the end we lay back down to rest, yielding to gravity and decay and the laws of the world, giving back what we have taken, gifting life to others.
Spoiler: in the end, it gets us all.
So the question is: what are you going to do about it?
For starters, go check out Dune if you haven’t already.
The one-eyed beast shines upon me from its perch beyond the clouds, its solitary cry ringing within my hollow cranium, the voices of a thousand wailing teenagers echoing like metal in a spinning barrel, endlessly turning and ringing and sounding out across the galaxies of forgotten times, making me crave the simple silence and a swift end.
An end to the intolerable rise of the tides within my temples when I hear the half-arsed murmur of a lacklustre human, a zombie with no will of its own but an undying hunger for pills and processed junk food. An end to the meaningless screeches of the bourgeoisie, trying to fill their fat pockets with breadcrumbs of the pigs that tower above them, resigned to their impotent destiny, powerless to change their own fates.
With a sword I shall end it all, put an end to these soulless ghouls with a satisfying stab through the midriff, muddying my blade in foul mists of coagulated humour. And not the mirthful kind.
Ever deeper I wade into the sea of rotting carcasses, bodies piling up all around me as blurred, unseen faces of ex-people pass left and right, tumble and spill beneath my blade. This never-ending torrent is but a test, a test of wit and will, for the undead can never truly harm me unless I let them, unless I let them inside my mind and let their black greed and pessimism infect my soul.
My fortitude and forebears protect me, allowing me to swing my bastard sword again and again, keeping the enemy at bay. Offense is the best defense, as is oft observed, and by defeating these beasts I am not only protecting myself, but the days of the other living.
And yet these mindless marching zombies do not appear to mean me any harm. They appear to be shambling beyond my bitter frame, despite the harm I am bestowing upon their brethren, lurching towards an unseen ledge like the lemmings of legend that rush over to their doom (it’s a myth, by the way). I begin to question my quest, my bloodthirsty hacking journey. What do they really want? Where are they marching?
Perhaps they are merely following a road laid down for them. Perhaps they are all in my mind…
Who really knows where the roads in our mind will lead us?
It is a contorted, distorted road that I walk, one with more twists and turns than life itself, this weathered imaginary flagstone path that I follow. Much like the foul beings that march all around me, I have been conditioned to follow the path, condemned to stick to the safe passage crafted by those that came before me for all eternity.
But then I realise that within my own mental realm I am free, I am imagine a road of my own, a path less travelled, or many forks snaking away into the abyss that the likes of man (and woman) knows not!
How do I access this lofty world of freedom where I can go wherever I want and be whoever I want to be? Where dreams can be dreams and be truly imaginarily explored and fulfilled?
I must escape the undead hordes, release myself from their grimy clutches, not just on my figurative physical form, but also on my mind. Their mind-numbing march is not my own, their misdirection is their own folly and I choose not to walk the murky, trodden path that their decomposing feet trample.
I must find my own freedom and break free of these ethereal shackles, fiery brands and twisted daggers scorched upon my wrinkled dome. I want to break away, I want to break free.
And I’ve realised running is the best way to free my mind, to free the spirit. Dashing out from between these sedentary lumbering corpses with their guts hanging out of their tattered apparel.
The one-eyed beast watches over me as my feet pound the pavement beneath its gentle light, beneath the towers of stone and sand built by man, beneath a steely sky that glows from within, a fire in its belly that never sleeps.
Do you like acquiring new things, keeping them, stashing them away like a little squirrel furiously caching acorns?
Do you feel the rush when you find the perfect place to store that handy little morsel you managed to salvage from the wreckage of the parking lot of your shopping trip? Do you enjoy playfully patting it to sleep in its new home and staring longingly as you close the cabinet, sealing your new friend away for eternal slumber, never to be seen again until the world calls for it, summons it by its very name?
Perhaps you enjoy…hoarding?
Do you feel personally attacked? Don’t worry, this isn’t an attack. I’m personally something of a hoarder at heart, although I know a few people that could certainly give me a run for my money.
There’s something of a line between saving up for a rainy day and hoarding the heck out of your humble home, but regardless the joy of acquiring new materials and toys to call your own is undeniable. And there’s more to it than that.
I just had a thought – when we squirrel things away for future use, no matter how practical it is, we develop an attachment to that thing on some level. We deem it to have some form of value, even if the value is not immediately apparent or obvious to others (or even ourselves).
And when we develop an attachment to something, we tie a little strand of our mind and emotions to it, so wherever we go there is a string we keep attached to the back of our mind for us to yank back into action should the need arise.
However, as we bring in more and more materials and goods and gewgaws to our neat little nest, we create more and more strings, many a strand to our mighty stash as it swells and grows, like our pride as we gaze upon our treasure trove.
And wherever we go, those strings follow us, give us a sense of pride and accomplishment, a sort of satisfaction that we are fulfilled and moving up in the world, climbing upon our pile of material achievements, one trinket at a time.
Beware the strings of the past.
Here’s the thing: perhaps we might use those objects and bring them back into the land of the living at some point. Perhaps we won’t. If we never touch or look at those objects, they basically becomes items of our past, objects that used to bring us joy but now leave a dull feeling of nothingness. And living like that is akin to living in the past.
Not akin to – it is living in the past. Living vicariously through the lives of our objects past. And every time we come across them items of our past, we can’t bear to be rid of them, because we developed a past attachment, and we tell ourselves that these objects are still of value, still of use to us, if not now then at some point in the future.
So we are living in the past, for our future. Never in the present.
And so we continue to search and to hunt and to find new things to bring us that brief joy, that brief rush, more retail therapy, more things to fill our homes with and to bring us closer to…what exactly? Fulfillment? Fully filled to the brim, for sure.
Is it wrong to want to acquire things, especially useful or pretty things? Useful pretty things?
Well, certainly not. Isn’t that part of the human experience?
We obtain objects through our travels that mean something to us. Maybe because they mark a momentous event in our lives. Maybe because they were given to us by someone we cared about. Maybe because they remind us of someone we used to be.
So we are living in the past, for our future. Never in the present.
These objects have power. They all have a power over us, whether big or small. They tug at the strings in the back of our minds, summoning the memories and emotions that we associate with these objects.
And it is certainly not wrong to want to cling to those things that matter, those memoirs of a life well lived, of the journeys we have been on.
Then why are there orders and doctrines that dictate a life devoid of attachment? The Jedi Order certainly deems it so, and yet they all run around with throbbing tools attached to their waists.
I guess we have to ask why do people hoard?
I imagine hoarding brings a sense of achievement, a sense of satisfaction like that of a magpie finding fresh fleshy shiny things to adorn its nest with, to beautify its interior and bolster its external walls. Hoarding is a form of control over an otherwise uncontrollable world of crazy people and crazy events and crazy concepts of conquest.
Should our attachment be solely to living objects then? Is that healthier? Does it prevent the hoarding mentality? Does it give us a better sense of control in a world where most people feel their sense of control slipping between their buttery fingers?
Hoarding is basically living in the past, but with objects. Letting past presents tear you away from the present, letting worn out weapons weigh you down, letting anchors drag you back into the undertow, deep below the surface where no one else can reach you.
Often we don’t realise it as we accumulate stuff that we don’t need and don’t use, and we get to the point where we have to force ourselves to do things or use things so as not to allow them to go to waste. Especially when we acquire things that have an expiry date.
Yes, things in the freezer still go bad, mum.
I swear everyone has the misconception that things in the freezer will last forever. Or at least, out of sight out of mind.
This is the sort of old baggage that doesn’t just make you mentally sick, but has the potential to make you physically ill as well.
I’d like to think I’ve improved from my hoarding ways, like to think I’ve cleaned myself up and sobered up. But perhaps I’ve just gotten better at shuffling things around, or better at pretending to utilise the unwilling objects I’ve lugged home.
I guess it’s good to have a balance, to tether between being amply stocked and resourceful, and excessively cluttered to the point of being unproductive. I don’t have a three step plan to declutter your life, to Marie Kondo-ing your world. You can go check out Marie’s Kondo for that.
Just take small steps, one thing at a time, one dime a day.