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Mortality and Materialism

A question recently got stuck in my brain and I can’t seem to shake it, in part because I don’t know how to answer it: when I’m old and at the end of my life, what will I want done with all my earthly possessions?

I don’t know why I started thinking about it, but now that I have, I can’t stop. I’m a long-term thinker to a fault. I didn’t stay in touch with any friends after I graduated high school, because I assumed I wouldn’t go back to my home town after college. I didn’t make any friends in college, because I knew I’d only know those people for four years. I know that nothing in existence ever truly “fundamentally” matters, because eventually all the stars in the universe will go out and intelligent life will no longer be possible.

Yep. Long term thinking.

Over the last decade or three, I’ve acquired a lot of material junk. Books. Video games. Shelf knick-knacks. A kick-ass gem and mineral collection. Money in a bank account. Trading cards. Less money in my bank account. (I blame the trading cards.)

But in another 50+ years, when I’m 80+ and I know I only have 1 or 2 more in me to add to that “+”… What am I gonna do with all that shit?

It’s not like I can bring those things with me into whatever afterlife may or may not exist. And I currently don’t intend to have children, so there’s not exactly a default ‘heir’ to the fortune. (Although, if I ever do have children, I’ll be relieved to have such an easy answer to this question.) (I’ll have them fight each other for every piece of the empire, like Alexander the Great did with his successors.)

Earlier today, Father’s Day, I saw someone give her elderly father a holiday card. When I was a kid, my favorite part of getting holiday cards was the $10 or $20 bill hidden inside. But when I’m old and “know” I have no logical use for an extra $20, what would I want instead? Anything? Nothing? Caring sentiments from people who love me? Will there even be such people at that point, seeing how I’ve lived my life so far?

Long term thinking. Everyone leaves eventually, so why get to know anyone in the meantime? Everything ends eventually, so nothing in between matters. Such an awful way to live. I hate that I’m like this.

When I was in college, I never decorated my dorm rooms. No posters on the walls, no anything on anything—because I knew I was only going to live there for a year, so why decorate? Why make any home feel like “home” if it’s not the endgame home?

This… isn’t the direction I intended this post to take. Shit. I’m learning things about myself that I definitely need to reflect on. But anyway, materialism.

As you may have guessed, a thought has crossed my mind once or twice that would be the ultimate extrapolation of the ideas presented above: if I’m going to die eventually (whether in 50 years or 5 billion), does it even make sense to collect material possessions over the course of my life? If I won’t be able to enjoy my rock collection forever, should I even build it in the first place?

Obviously, the answer has to be ‘yes.’ A world in which the answer is ‘no’ would absolutely suck to live in. Thus, it is left to us to figure out why the answer is ‘yes.’

Because my shiny rocks will make me happy in the meantime? Well, yeah. That’s the answer. It’s that simple.

I just wish I could make myself believe it.

1 Comment

  1. joimassat

    I’m not much of a long-term thinker, but, incidentally, I never decorated my dorms either, beyond a single picture in a frame which I soon lost all interest in.

    My personal solution to this is, give stuff away. If you have no use for that extra $20, give it to someone who might appreciate it or simply put it on the street for someone to stumble upon. Maybe this does open up more weird long-term questions about how utility can be perpetuated, and, more crushingly, it opens up questions about how the giver gets pleasure out of it, how this is apparently the only pleasure the giver can be left with, how/whether that utility will last. Things I am never forced to think about, I guess. But really, the only reason I do this is because a lot of the stuff doesn’t make me happy and is just gifts I was given in the hopes that it would. (“Minimalist aesthetic” in practical terms also means you don’t move so much stuff from place to place, if/when you do move…)

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