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"I knew nothing, and I persisted in the faith that the time of cruel miracles was not past."

— Stanislaw Lem, Solaris

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Thursday, May 12th, 2005

I am addicted to matter; that is to say, I'm a packrat. I've spent much of my life accumulating things - not necessarily things of value or use, but things that simply struck my fancy. I have fragments of toys from early childhood, obsolete computer equipment, thousands of books on any topic that I could even remotely justify wanting to know about, stacks of papers that I might want to read again someday but which I won't, various tools which could possibly be useful under some circumstance, and endless bits and pieces of formed metal and glass, some pretty, some of interesting function, most accumulated and kept with the flimsiest of justifications.

I wonder if there was a formative event of some sort that made me want to hoard things... I can recall one instant in childhood where strong parental hands were pulling me back from the sea, and a foam sandal was drifting irretrievably off on the waves even as I screamed and reached and tried to recover it. However, I think this was an effect rather than a cause. Perhaps, since I was adopted, my vulnerability to feelings of abandonment has found expression in my refusal to abandon objects for which I've felt the slightest attachment.

This evening, I put in a few more hours of work on my storage unit. I cannot sort the objects at this point; if I stop to look at them, I will get lost in examining them, calling to mind the pleasure of dim memories and fantastic hypotheticals, and will make no progress on getting things sorted, put in good order and rescued from several years of neglect. I recall a quote attributed to Einstein: "Every possession is a stone around the leg."

I am engaged in several projects, all of which are aimed at correcting past mistakes / disadvantages of mine. Weaning myself of my matter addiction has been painful. I started with small subterfuges, little rationalizations to counter the irrational schemes I invented to justify keeping things. For example, where I might once have kept a Physician's Desk Reference from 1976, on the supposition that I might in some work of fiction need to know' what a doctor of that time would have had available in her pharmocopeia, I now counter such silliness with a firm "You can look it up in a library if you ever really need it." A piece at a time, I shall get this stuff discarded, or find another home for it, and leave in my life only that which helps me and has meaning.

I'm losing weight as well. I think I've finally learned that carrying around so much of the world is too great a burden for any one person. I hope I'll have the strength to carry it through. Meanwhile, I am steadfastly ignoring the mass of files I'm accumulating on my hard drive...


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