“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; Remember that what you have now was once among the things you had only hoped for.” –Epicurus
I have a lot of things at home that I really want to pick up and take back with me. Jewelry—specifically Medousa-themed items, and a necklace bearing Rav Hillel’s famous maxim, “If I am not for myself….”—some electronics—a new computer, a phone to replace my Pixel 3 which has died, a short-wave radio for news from home, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. I even want to fetch my Russian caps out of storage.
But the truth is, that for all these things I want, whether to enhance and display my sense of self, or for my convenience, I do already have everything I actually need. I have clothes, whether or not I like what styles I currently have. I do have a computer that, for now, works, with which I can stay in touch with family and friends, and continue to write and publish, even if it isn’t good enough for gaming. I have plenty of food and water available to me. I have a warm place to sleep, a refrigerator, and even a Western-style toilet.
I often catch myself longing for those other material things as if they mattered more than they really do. I must admit, it is an uncomfortable and embarrassing feeling, if I’m honest. I try to avoid going online to Amazon; while I can afford most of what I want these days, Amazon generally does not deliver to China. In fact, I did give in earlier last year to get things I desired, and now they are stockpiled along with my mail at my kid brother’s house in New Jersey. It feels a bit unfair, but since losing my house in 2019, what else can I do for a U.S. address?
I had been using Amazon’s shopping cart as a way to pretend to myself to be shopping; I could simply reserve items I wanted without actually making the purchase. But, after a while, I caved in and bought the items stored in my cart. It was too tantalizing and I did not have the willpower to resist my more avaricious proclivities.
Why do I seem to want what I haven’t got when I already have what I need? Am I so grasping and shallow? I have a large storage locker in which I have kept as much as I could from Grammom’s house. And it really hurt when I had to sell the house, but couldn’t be there to rescue childhood toys and games from the attic. It costs nearly USD$300.00 each month to keep that storage unit; but I pay it gladly. For now. Why do I do that? I could be saving that money. What is the likelihood that I’ll ever be able to return to the United States and have my own home again? It feels useless, yet I can’t shake the compulsion.
I wonder if it has to do with an unsettled childhood. Moving house every few years when I was a child, or so it seemed. I really wanted a permanent haven. I never learned to be a true traveler of the world. It’s as if I’m looking to things for a sense of permanence. Or security.
Material things should not have such a hold on me, I know. But, alas, they do. I am not yet a True Sage, I guess.
I shall have to try harder to quell my greed and concentrate on what I have here and now, and try to do what I can, here and now. I have students to instruct and guide, and I have books to write.
“And miles to go before I sleep….” Though not so many now as when I should’ve come to these realizations.