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Off With Your Appurtenances!


In light of impending disaster, we must throw aside the trappings of bourgeois complacency. I am fond of these trappings, and in certain cases even aspire to upgrade, but if it comes down to me or my stuff, I’ll take me. Albeit with great regret. Human history, and the 200,000 years before human history during which we were still identifiably human, if a trifle stooped, is marked by calamities that have presented individuals of our species with a simple choice. Those that made the correct selection, survived. Those that did not, plotzed. Here is this choice which has so often been arranged by one mechanism or another (an ice age here, a war there) to prove the mettle of mankind: you, or yours?

You, or Yours. Vous, ou Vôtre? U, of van U? Faced with calamity immediate or pending (angry mob/ dwindling petroleum supply) will you choose to adhere to the interests of your stuff, or will you choose to adhere to the interests of your self, understood to mean you the entity, to be construed as including for the sake of this argument both the Hobbesian sense of a material, atomistic being, and Descartes’ ideational modality in which the self is a causal commitment? You can see why most of us go for the stuff. It’s easier to explain.

But the times, they are a-changing, as that guy in the Victoria’s Secret commercials used to say. We can’t remain so attached to stuff, or we’ll be verklempt when it’s distrained upon by creditors. They don’t call it the trappings of bourgeois complacency for nothing: it traps you. Here, then, is this exercise you may remember I was foing to tell you about. (I meant to say going. ‘foing was just a typographical error. Oddly enough, sforza is not a typographical error, but rather the Italian word for ‘it strains’, and also the name of a family that ruled the duchy of Milan from the mid-15th through early 16th centuries.) This exercise requires one of those trappings I mentioned, viz. a digital camera. One could use a film camera for the same purpose, but why?

Take a photograph of everything you own. You don’t have to print the pictures, you can just put them all in a folder in your computer somewhere, or if you have a magical camera, you can cause your pictures to orbit Saturn. What matters most is the picture-taking. Be methodical. Start on the outside of your dwelling, tenementum, or messuage, where there isn’t usually quite so much stuff. Garden hose, bits of old tricycle, dog toy, chair. Move indoors, going carefully from room to room. Curtains, rugs, Pink Floyd poster, pillow, table, favorite mug, hat; get a picture of everything you personally own. If you rent, disregard the items furnished with the rental. I will allow certain efficiencies, such as photographing all contents of a drawer in situ, as long as you can get most of it into the picture. No sense turning the place upside down. Ditto bookshelves. You don’t have to photograph each book separately. If you have any first editions of Swift, let me know. Keep taking pictures: bathroom cabinets, attic, crawlspace, under the kitchen sink. The car, and the stuff in the car. Clothing can be shot where it hangs, like Mussolini, but shoes get one picture per pair. There is stuff you can’t get pictures of, like your attachment to place, your daily routine, your Big Plans for the Future, consuetude generally. This stuff isn’t even stuff! If you didn’t get a picture of it, it doesn’t exist. Ironically, it’s the stuff that doesn’t exist that gets most of us killed.

What you will end up with is approximately one half-million pictures. These pictures represent your stuff. Review the pictures. What do you notice? If it was somebody else’s stuff, you wouldn’t care about it. It’s all rubbish. That’s part one of this exercise. Part two requires the collapse of the American way of life, replete with economic and societal disaster, catastrophic environmental change, war, and costly gasoline. Will you pile all your stuff in the basement and defend it against the IRS tanks until you run out of ammunition? Will you suffocate in a mud slide because you refuse to leave your stuff behind? Ixnay, I say. Leave it all behind and start again. Our duty is to go on, not to perish on principle, as hard as that is. In fact, now is probably the best time to get rid of it all, not after things have gone wrong. If you miss the good old days, no worries. You can always look at the pictures.

BEN TRIPP can be reached at

His book, ‘Square In The Nuts’, has been held up at the printers by thugs but will be released as soon as hostage negotiations conclude.

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