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Location: Stevens Point, Wisconsin, United States

Monday, May 14, 2007

Aquisitions

Walking along the Lake Michigan shore just at sunup yesterday with Jane, a mile or so south of Baileys Harbor in Wisconsin's Door County, I began surveying the frequently very large and obviously expensive homes lining the waterfront. I pictured each of them filled, most of them surely like the homes the owners occupied the other months of the year, with the accumulation of things Americans routinely call their "stuff." The stuff we all have is directly proportional to the space we have to store it. I learned this again last summer when we moved to a smaller--1000 sq ft--apartment. Shrinking our living space by a third meant jettisoning a like percentage of our stuff. All of which, I can now report, we do without quite comfortably, mostly because the stuff was stored in the spaces we had before, and therefore mostly unused. Perhaps you've noticed that construction of "storage units"--buildings of garages and closets in various configurations--has been a growth industry for years now, in and around towns and cities of every size. These units are for the stuff that overflows the storage spaces in Americans' ever-larger homes. When I'm out cycling I regularly note cars parked on the driveways of residences with three and even four garages, the stalls too full of stuff for the vehicles to be driven in. I conclude that acquisition--of "experiences" just as surely as of stuff--is worse than futile, unless you convey to others what you've gathered. One of the things I most enjoy about my work as a teacher, whether of philosophy or fitness, is that my learning is for the sake of giving it away to others. And learning is the loveliest of enterprises. The more you give away, the more you possess...

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