A hoarder slumbers in most of us, I fear.
3rd Rock from the Sun had it all wrong. Humanity’s favourite pastime isn’t to do with sex; it’s to do with acquiring dwelling places and filling them with stuff. From the Old Testament to the Aeneid to modern literature, people’s obsession with possessions is staggering.
On Tyrian carpets, richly wrought, they dine;
With loads of massy plate the sideboards shine,
And antique vases, all of gold emboss’d
(The gold itself inferior to the cost)
You know that icebreaker in group trainings – if you could meet any famous person, living or dead, and spend a day with them, who would it be and what would you do? I’d meet Virgil and I’d take him to Westfield. He’d love it there.
It’s under our skin
Maybe there’s an evolutionary explanation? Perhaps monkeys who hoarded their sharp flint flakes had a better chance at survival: having immediate access to tools and/or weapons meant that they didn’t need to look for a suitable stone each time they wanted to knock something on the head. I don’t know how it began, but I think we have been like this since the beginning.
A couple of my more obscure uni electives were in comparative religion, whence I was expected to read (and occasionally even comprehend) both Testaments, the Quran and bits of the Tripitaka. It’s all the same shit, by the way: teaching peasants to not challenge those in charge in exchange for jam after death.
As they admonish serfs, slaves and assorted free paupers to forswear material possessions (should be easy enough to do when you have nothing), holy scriptures go into fascinating minutiae describing the items to be forsworn. We have detailed inventory lists of Job’s and Abraham’s livestock and servants, Solomon’s gold, chariots, housewares, robes (the dude liked purple, apparently), wives and cattle, in addition to all the stuff he inherited from David. As for Muhammad’s arsenal of bejewelled weaponry, armour and silk shirts, not only do they have descriptions – they have names. Unlike his horses, slaves and some of his women. Parts of the Nirvana Sutra read like House Beautiful shagged the GQ: for your next spiritual retreat consider this unique West Bengal mansion with beryl walls, lattice windows and golden hand railings. Arrive in style in a latest model luxury four horse wagon sporting a white roof and golden bells.
My point is, consumerism – present or aspirational – is part of our civilisation. Giving it up is damn hard.
One month in
Did I manage to get through the month with no new stuff? No. Below I present a list of the offending articles:
- Huawei modem (£15.99 from ebay). I recently switched from Virgin to BT, and their sixth generation Home Hub can’t be set to bridge mode. I have an extended home wifi network where Apple’s Time Capsule and three Airport Express gadgets provide great coverage, automatically back up my data, and I can use airplay in every room and in the garden. In my defence, I tried to get that BT thing to work. I really did. After four hours of messing about with settings (and a lot of swearing) I had to concede defeat: the only way of getting around double NAT is to put the Time Capsule in bridge mode and connect it to the Home Hub via LAN, but then the backups are soooo slooooow. I’m no expert, but I think it’s because the Home Hub OS is rubbish and can’t deal with the throughput of data from my laptop to the Time Capsule. Also, Airport Express don’t connect to the Home Hub, so the network can’t be extended, the signal in the garden is weak and none of the airplay devices work. I figured, fuck it, I’m allowed one exception that enables me to use fibre the way fibre is meant to be used.
- Five kitchen towels (£0.00; gift from mother). Why people need kitchen towels when there’s kitchen roll is beyond me. And especially since I already owned two perfectly adequate tea towels. Also, I banned her from buying me any more kitchen stuff a year ago, clearly with no results.
- Cheese baker (£0.00; another gift). It is a truth universally acknowledged that 15 minutes in the oven can transform average camembert into a gooey piece of heaven on a cracker. Or garlic bread. Or a carrot stick. Or a celery stick. Or an asparagus spear. With walnuts. But what is it with this thing for specialist dishes where no specialist dishes are required? You take camembert, you pierce the top, insert some rosemary or garlic, place it on a baking tray, into the over it goes, and voilà! I can’t even re-gift it because we had to use it.
I hope I can do better next month.