What we Save From a Fire

We commonly here people say that they tried to save the family pictures when fleeing a fire because "everything else can be replaced."

Family pictures have two characteristics that differentiate them from the rest of our possessions. They are a way to remember our own past and they are unique to us. Nearly everything else we own is mass-produced "stuff" which is indistinguishable from everyone else's "stuff".

We have created a life for ourselves surrounded by material possessions that are totally disconnected from ourselves. Advertisers and manufacturers spend a great deal of effort persuading us that the product selection choices we make are an expression of our uniqueness.

So now we have ten types of peanut butter instead of just smooth and chunky. Or a single brand of toothpaste will come in a half dozen variations. Things are even more ridiculous with "have it your way". No matter which way we have it, it's still just a hamburger.

Naturally, when our possessions are in danger we instinctively know that we can always get a new TV that will be essentially the same as the old one. What we have that is not mass produced is our photographs.

We need to rethink our goals. We do not actually express our individuality by selecting which mass market item to purchase. There is no need to keep up the continual chase for newer consumer items.

What we need to do is refocus our goals on what is unique to ourselves. This may involve spending more time making our own personal environment, either by making our own possessions or by finding those that we don't have the expertise to make from crafts people that share our outlook. We can deal with the creator and help determine the form of the item.

Shopping is not a creative activity in spite of what Madison Avenue tries to imply. Everyone has creative resources whether it's in cooking, crafts, gardening, writing or music. Even telling stories to your friends and family is satisfying. And the less "stuff" we race after the more time we have to express ourselves. The down side of having a house full of home-made or craft-made objects is that we really won't know what to grab when fleeing a fire.

If you have any comments you would like to add email me at robert.feinman@gmail.com
Copyright © 2004 Robert D Feinman
Feel free to use the ideas, but the words are mine.