Love is submerged under all the stuff

By Terry Sarten


Packing and moving away is one of the moments in life when we are forced to confront stuff in all its chaotic splendour and terrible decision-making glory.

Humans have had a long, sometimes difficult, relationship with stuff. Adam and Eve Cavepersons were hunters, gathers and collectors. They collected objects - bones, animal skins, colours for cave painting and things to brighten the hole in the ground they called home.

One theory is that once they started growing crops they settled and created villages, but I think it is more likely that, when getting ready to move on and follow the mammoths, they looked around at the piles of mammoth hides for bedding, the collection of clubs (the No11 has a special grip that improves the swing) the leopard-spotted loincloths in a range of different spots, and the favourite cave painting on flat rocks and said: "Ugh, when did we get all this stuff?"

They decided it was too much to carry, so they stayed, grew a few crops and waited till the mammoths returned.

The fervour and passion for collecting stuff has not changed much over the centuries. People traded their stuff for other's stuff, travelling great distances lugging their stuff there, then returning home with even more stuff.

At times, religions called on their followers to give them all their stuff as a way to enlightenment. Kings and queens discovered taxes and applied them to stuff.

Wars have been fought over stuff. Tribes, countries and continents have been engaged in deadly battles to get stuff they wanted.

Then there was advertising and the battle for market share. Day and night we were exhorted to buy stuff. Voices shouted, insisting we buy the latest thing. If we did not rush and purchase the newest shiny whatsit we would be a social failure.

The ads suggested, in sophisticated tones, that we "deserved things" or that owning the right stuff would make us desirable. Because humans are gullible we can be tricked into believing that having lots of things will make us sexy.

Instead, all the stuff filled up the spaces in people's lives, leaving less room for friendship, love, compassion and kindness.

As I pack up the house, the paintings, books, boxes of photos and letters, while sorting the things to keep from those destined for charity or the bin, I realise how much stuff has been collected over the years. Posters of gigs, notebooks bristling with scribbled ideas for columns, reminders and phone numbers all prompt memories of events in Whanganui.

We have been fortunate to live here. It is a wonderful small town, full of talented people who inspire with their generous energy and passion.

Moving away has been a reminder that, in a world so filled with stuff that there is little room for anything else, it is friends who anchor us all, no matter where we are.

It is not possible to put friendship and love in a box, wrap it in Christmas paper and give it to those you care about, so I say stuff it, put aside all that stuff and tell the people you love that love is what they will be getting for Christmas this year.

Terry Sarten is a local writer, musician and social worker who will miss the coffee, company and hospitality of Whanganui's cafes. Feedback email: tgs@inspire.net.nz

- Wanganui Chronicle

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