Books and Freedom

I find them inspiring. They are some of my favorite books: Another Roadside Attraction, Cat’s Cradle, Illusions: Adventures of A Reluctant Messiah, K-Pax, and now… Stargirl, which I devoured last evening in a single sitting.

There are common elements among these books. All of them celebrate both individuality and happiness. All of them give me a renewed sense of wonder and happiness. And that happiness rarely survives contact with other people. Of them all – with the possible exception of Cat’s Cradle – Stargirl does the best of showing why that is so. It also suggests that there are ways to … not fight that, but sidestep it.

Shortly after I finished the book and put it in her hands, my wife and I were sitting on the porch, talking and watching fireflies. A mutual acquaintance came up – one who constantly claims to be aspiring towards Eastern or New Age ideals… but ends up either mucking it up (wanting to live free without schedules AND pursuing a degree at a traditional university simultaneously is difficult at best) or falling back on Western consumerist patterns of behavior.

And I remember the sculpture downtown.

All of the toys, all of the stuff we have in Western Consumer culture, all of the attachments really do just hold us down. This is nothing new – but our society’s twin desires to both be free while simultaneously having all that “stuff”… perhaps that is something different.

We see useful expressions of this – Cool Tools, Lifehacker (and lifehacking in general), and Unclutterer (and uncluttering in general) are all ways to minimize the crap. They are ways to let us be more free – without completely dropping out of society.

It still requires one realization:

Stuff Requires Maintenance.

Even books – which I love – create the mental burden of “I’ve gotta get around to reading that”.

I’m not sure yet where I’m going to go with this in my own life – or where I’ll be *able* to go. (You try explaining a Buddhist sense of “detachment” to my 10 year old!) It will require a lot of self-reflection, a lot of thinking beforehand so I don’t have to think later. (Thanks to David Allen for that formulation.) But I am going to journey as best as I’m able, and go as far as I can.

Anyone else wanna come?

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