Thursday, May 5, 2011

Simply Put, Life is too Complex

Sometimes I wish my life were a little more simple. Take this couple, playing on the streets of Paris:

Playing outside Sacre Coeur
They were so happy. I remember the music they were playing as we labored breathlessly up Montmartre.

It wafted through the trees, and as tourists rounded the cobblestone corner, they stopped and simply listened. The urgency that their meticulous triptiks demanded was forgotten as they sipped their water, marveled at the gargantuan cathedral that lay before them, and smiled at the dancing melodies that sprung from this aged duo's fingertips.

I love street music. Sometimes, I wish I could be one of those people, making music day in and day out.

Obviously I am romanticizing the profession a great deal. I am sure that these people have to deal with an immense amount of pain, annoying passerby's, lack of health insurance, and carrying an accordion up all those stairs. But then again, they don't have to worry about many of the things that someone in the traditional professional industry deals with either.

Paperwork is for the Birds

Last night I was working on filing paperwork. Bills, statements, and other ephemeral records of what my wife and I owe to whom for which services provided, etc. About an hour into the process, our living room floor was covered in stacks of papers. It reminded me of what I imagine the Nixon administration offices looked like, prior to the Watergate scandal. Papers everywhere.

"The Bird Confetti" by Lotte Geeven
I know you are supposed to keep these records for three to five years, but I am having trouble seeing the reasons. It seems like a ploy to keep people bogged down in "stuff".

Do hobo's have to deal with paperwork? Bills, filing, record keeping? Do drifters dream of mundane details? I know I should be happy with my current status in the "American Dream" machine, but sometimes I'd rather get off the grid, out of the system, and on my own time. To some, a folly desire. To others, not so extreme.

I say, to hell with stuff. It's time to set the paper free.

To Cherish or Perish?

I am increasingly torn between this frantic desire to save everything I have ever owned and a deep, heartfelt disdain for all the clutter in my life.

My grandfather was born in 1935. He grew up in the final days of the depression, so learned the value of tangible goods. Things lasted longer back then because there was scarcity. He learned to use things until they turned to dust, because, who knew when another would be available.

This mentality was passed on to my mother and her siblings, who in turn has passed it on to me. Now we live in a disposable society where everything is single-serving, immediate use. There is no longer a fear of availability. But the retention instinct remains.

I am not saying that I want to be able to wear my socks once and then throw them away. I am not advocating using paper plates and plastic utensils everyday. I am merely saying that my life is filled with "stuff" that I don't really need. Knickknacks adorn shelves. Closets burst with unknowable collections. Cabinets burst with kitchen utensils that evoke images of medieval torture.

Why can't we live more simply!?!? What is it all for?

I think Annie and I are going to become Amish. They probably don't have paperwork to file.


  1. Single serving friends :D "How's that working for you, being clever?" Sorry, Fight Club waaaay too many times. I'm with you on becoming Amish, I'm pretty sure they're tax-exempt if I'm not mistaken.
    The real downside for me would be I'd have to learn a "real" trade because I don't think the Amish have much need for computer techs :-)

  2. Hi Chris! I think about these things a lot too. I just read a book that I recommend to you heartily, "Tales of an American Hobo" from University of Iowa Press ( It made me a little sad, though, because it became quickly obvious that this way of life is nearly impossible. Everything is owned by somebody, and nobody trusts anybody anymore. So many stories he told of people picnicking in parks and inviting him to eat, or buying him a hamburger if he went into a diner looking for honest work -- unfortunately I don't think people are that generous or prone to trust people anymore...

  3. Matt,

    I love Fight Club. You may quote it in excess.

    You would not do well as a computer tech in an Amish commune. Luckily, I think you'd do well in the manual labor department.