Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Abandoning Hope

I am going to throw out a theory that collections are outcomes of good intentions. Perhaps a better, and less politically correct, synonym for collections is ‘piles’. The piles that grow around your desk, next to your favourite armchair, or on top of the laundry hamper in the bathroom, on the kitchen counter, next to the washing machine, or just behind the door. These piles of newspapers, articles, missing parts, slightly broken pieces of unrecognizable function, bags, gift-wrapping paper, ribbons, half-used notepads, pens you didn’t like and have been meaning to pass on to someone who might – let’s face it, they really are just piles of stuff. They were not accumulated with the mind of a collector or archive-r or any such noble notion, but simply out of the pure good intention that they will be read, used, fixed, distributed.

In my attempt to organize one such pile, I bought a new wicker basket, carried it by hand when I travelled, and arrived to find that it did not fit under my coffee table, nor was it sufficient to hold my dusty and overflowing collection of newspaper supplements and magazines. Acting of their own accord, my hands smoothly switched from packing to throwing away. The time had come to abandon all hope – I was never going to find the time or the motivation to read all that was contained in what had become more than 5-years’ worth of collecting, nor was it necessarily interesting to read any more. It was time.

Having spent years with the misguided belief that I would miss these papers, or miss out on some nugget of wisdom or crucial knowledge for not having read them, I was a little surprised to find how oddly (and paradoxically) liberating it was to just eliminate them completely. This little epiphany unraveled an ‘energizer bunny’ sweep of the house and all its crevices as all piles, in all their different shapes, forms and functions, were duly eliminated or downsized to a bare minimum. And let me tell you something, not only did I feel liberated, but equally refreshed and rejuvenated.

As it turns out, abandoning hope is the flip side of embracing clean slates and clearing the ‘pending’ guilty conscience checklist, and truly could not have felt better. This got me to wonder what else was piling up somewhere in our worlds and would inevitably lighten our load and spirits if we were to abandon it?

Not surprisingly when living in a country such as mine, my first thoughts strayed to politics and politicians, and the daydream led me through the possibility of pressing an imaginary ‘reset’ button (more like an ‘eject’ button) and the clean slate that would follow. I am sure that we, as citizens and voters, would soon fall into the same patterns as I will with my slowly creeping piles, but I also know that having gone through the purging process, we would be wiser as to what we would choose to take a chance on and keep, and what we would throw out on the spot. Just picture the process devoid of any additional considerations of the length of time we’d held on to it/them, or the single creative but impractical idea (or hope) we’d had when we stumbled on it/them – elements that frequently give piles a false sense of value.

So before you discount abandoning hope as an escapist, defeatist measure, I suggest that you first gauge its ‘purging’ value, and assess if you really are holding onto treasures, or just deadweights.

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