So Much Stuff

I have been standing in line for three hours at the Antiques Road Show, waiting to get an appraisal of an old painting. I gaze out at the thousands of people here and reflect on how we assign meaning to temporary things. Everyone has a story about something precious to them, an item they hope will make them rich, or just a curiosity about grandmother’s broach. So much stuff. I am here because we won tickets in the PBS lottery and thought it would be a grand experiment.

The real joy of this experience, however, is in connecting—hearing the stories that bring meaning to someone’s life. I engage with a Portland restaurant owner who purchased some potentially valuable art he discovered hiding in a dusty corner of a thrift store. But our conversation is not about art, per se. My companion-in-line shares his experience in managing employees at his several restaurants. He notices that everything goes more smoothly when his ego is less involved. His presence as an owner/manager is more about creating harmony rather than control; finding a common purpose.

The art we carry on this ‘road show’ is just a symbol of commonality—a place to connect and then enter into mutual respect and kindness. If we use the meaning we assign to the things in our life as a way to make us feel more important or have a sense of control, we lose our connection and kindness. We become dictatorial managers who do not listen to what creates meaning for others. It is like several relatives coveting uncle Charlie’s pocket watch and fighting over who gets it when he dies.

The only real value of art in our life is that it reveals our essential interconnection. If we can transcend our isolated selves through the shared space of meaning, we no longer cling to temporary possessions—or even our existence. We recognize every ‘thing’ is a symbolic gesture of awareness inviting us to effortlessly express our open nature—blessing everything equally in all directions. We let go of stuff and remember the boundless quality of compassion.


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