Saturday, May 5, 2012

Successful living?

I have just passed a store here in Sliema, Malta, called "Successful Living". It made me stop in my tracks, almost causing a pedestrian traffic accident as the people on the pavement behind me took evasive action. Saturday night is the night for strolling in Sliema and everyone does it.

But who does "successful living" and would we know it anyway? And more to the point, would we recognize "unsuccessful living"?

I suspect that the answer may vary by nation, or by society, or by culture, or maybe by degree of economic wellbeing. Or by whether you are above or below the poverty level in your society. Or not.

If the Englishman, when on his deathbed, can lift his head and say "well, that didn't turn out too bad", then that might define successful living for him. But that is a cultural stereotype at work and maybe that is not fair. Or then again, maybe it is.

I should have stopped to inspect the shop window to search for clues as to what the shop might actually sell to support "successful living". But the press of strollers was too strong and I was pushed on past the shop before I could identify anything. I have a nasty feeling that it might have been furniture. Not the useful stuff that one can sit on or eat off or sleep on. But the useless stuff that accumulates and makes you get storage units when you get older and move on. Stuff that should never be bought no matter how you define success.

Stuff does not define success; I'm pretty sure that most grown ups can agree on that by now. If that is debatable, then there is some more growing up to do. Stuff drags you down and drowns you, designer cushion by designer cushion, artifact by artifact, lamp shade by wicker basket.

An Indian friend of mine says that we have to reduce our stuff down to one hundred things. He wasn't sure if that included books or underwear, but I am pretty sure that it picks up cushions, artifacts, shades and baskets. One hundred is actually quite a lot when you are packing a suitcase to move from one continent to another. I certainly could not fit an hundred of anything into my carry-on from LL Bean. Do I count the carry-on as stuff?

The hundred is a guideline, a concept, an idea for us to think about, an excuse to toss out the useless stuff instead of returning it to store 'just in case'. Maybe we should think of "successful living" as a potential guideline too. After all, there a precious few absolutes in life that cannot be renegotiated at one time or another. Deal breakers come and go every day. Everything is directional - right?

Just start throwing out stuff; in time it will become clear whether the one hundred includes underwear or books - but I'm pretty sure that it does include books on underwear.

Start to minimize. I realize that is what I began some years ago. Let go of stuff, let go of the past, let go of the future and just live now. Minimize expectations and maybe things might not turn out too bad.

Now that would be successful, wouldn't it?

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