That folder contained files from LP books I’ve written since 2005. While I lost nothing urgently necessary (or necessary at all, really), it was disconcerting to lose so many documents, so much history. What if I ever need that stuff?
Well, chances are, I won’t. I keep tons of unnecessary things: Clothes and shoes I never wear. Photocopies, old bills, and other paper clutter. My old iMac and iBook (no time to wipe out the hard drives for computer recycling). Broken or obsolete digital cameras and cell phones. Perhaps my Honda belongs on the list. Last year I drove only about 700 miles, opting to get around Vancouver by bus. My car battery has died twice since November due to insufficient use! But don’t I need a car in case of emergency? How else can I rush Momo or Sly to the animal ER? What about airport runs and shopping trips for dog food and toilet paper? And don’t forget the road trips I’ll take when I have more free time (yeah, right). It’s hard to give up a possession that’s become a given in my life.
But what is truly essential?
The same day that I noticed my missing Lonely Planet archives, I chanced upon “Japan, one year after the tsunami” in a Maclean’s magazine lying around at Vancouver Honda. (I was servicing my car after the most-recent battery drain.) I read about 60-year-old Katsuhiko Endo, a former oyster fisherman who lost his home, livelihood, and entire hometown (his family was spared) after the tsunami:
… He has nothing from his earlier life. “I used to love Burberry,” he says. “I had Burberry socks, Burberry belts, Burberry shoes, even Burberry underwear.” … A thoughtful man, he smiles sheepishly: “I cared about luxury.”
Unless we lose everything, it’s easy to be swayed by things, not only extravagances but stuff we simply do not need.