Tuesday, 20 July 2010

If I can't take it with me when I go....

This little rant is thanks to a new magazine, via Charles on TGFG (good to see you back in action, Charles.)

Excellent suggestion, in "Eulogy," from the late Clement Freud via his daughter Emma - when he passed 70, rather than have a birthday party etc, he would invite guests round on the condition that they took something from the house away with them! OK he was famous and (presumably) rich,so he could afford it. But those of us with more modest lifestyles still tend to get cluttered-up once we are past, er, a certain age.

Hence the popularity of those private self-storage compartments we can hire nowadays. They are for the stuff you can't cram into your house. But if you can't cram it into your house, how are you going to use and enjoy it? Visit and sit in the self-storage at weekends?

"Well, it might come in, you never know." Yes you do know - if you haven't used it for four years, you probaby don't need it, or even want it much. (I'm not talking about people who are between homes, etc.)

So is our attachment to stuff we don't use but won't give away - to charity, to the four winds, to anyone - part of our increasigly tight and increasingly futile grasp on a materialist and ultimately unattainable earthly heaven, because we've stopped believing in the traditional heaven and can't face that new version of truth?

Is the smell of mortality-panic swirling in a miasma (I'm enjoying this far too much, shall have to go and lie down soon)in a miasma, I say, around the gloomy purlieus of self-storage facilities?

I'm with Clement - if you can't use it, chuck it - or better still find somone who can. Relax your grip on stuff, and you'll maybe relax your stranglehold on your life, so you can enjoy it more.

Eartha Kitt used to sing about a woman who felt that "If I can't take it with me when I go, I just ain't gonna go." Well, you can't and you will, sugar, as we all know. Maybe that's panicking us. A touch of the number 5s in my last post.


  1. I think this business of divesting oneself is quite common among the very old? My mother did it. She was living like a monk when she died.

    Of course, Clem was a curmudgeonly old unsentimentalist. I liked his instruction for his order of service: Born ______ ; Best Before _______

    Yes, I am sure you are right: possessions are a symptom of mortality denial/panic. They assert to Reaper G that you belong to the material world and are therefore ineligible for his culling services. It takes a beautiful mind (or an old curmudgeon) to go into that good night unencumbered.

  2. Indeed Charles, similarly with my mother. But I think also that part of it is sometimes to pass on something of meaning (not necessarily of financial value, though occasionally that too) to someone of meaning.

    With the words "I want you to have this, because..." and "I'd enjoy giving it to you now rather than you having to wait until, er...later..." (i.e. nicer to see your smile when you get it than write it into a will.)

    It's sometimes also a gesture in opposition to the relentless passing of time and blankness of death. "Your grandmother, the one you never met, brought this back from... and I'd want it to stay in the family." Any family, not only the Duke of Someplace. The story mattters, the object will matter, it has a weight and aura it wouldn't display in a shop. It's out of the cash nexus and into somewhere more potent.

    'Course sometimes it's more like "do what you want with it, it'll save me trip to the charity shop." But in either case, there is a sense of unburdening and preparation, which I take to be a healthy thing. So, no doubt, do charity shops. Which are finding life difficult at present thanks to the Masters of the Universe.

  3. This is something that I've been thinking about recently. I have shelves of books that I haven't yet read, so wanted to start reading them before buying any more.

    This is completely illogical, but it has the feeling of a "life's work" about it (I told you there were a lot).

    There is a sense that I can't die until I've read them all (I worry myself with statements like these), and also a panic that if I do read them all, do I have to keel over at the turning of the final page?

    Yes, I should get out more.

  4. Well, XP,it's not compulsory to keel over at the final page - is that like the reverse of the old joke "How's it looking, Doc?" "Don't start any long novels.."

    Maybe it's the reading that keeps us going - I have exactly the same problem with unread books, the lure of the bookshop, and the clear feeling that life is finite but the bookstock isn't. I may get slung out of the BHA for quoting the Bible but doesn't it say in Ecceliastes "Of the making of books there is no end?" On my saner days, I can just about let go of the whole issue. Other days, it makes me either read too quickly and chuck a book too soon, or just not read at all in sullen defiance and write nonsense on my blog..

    Given your formula, the thing to do is obviously to slip a new book at regular intervals onto the shelf unobtrusively, and hope the Recording Angel is on a tea break.