|Vieux-Montreal, December 2015|
Yes, I'm serious.
First, there was this article in Slate, which argues that Marie Kondo's campaign against clutter is actually "a nonstop assault on the most basic form of human denial," that of our own eventual, inevitable demise: "The piles of stuff we might need someday are an argument that we will always be around to need them."
The article crystallizes something that I've suspected about myself but hadn't quite put the words to: I do tend to take on too much, too many projects, and the physical stuff that comes along with them (I'm thinking mostly of creative pursuits here, especially my shameful fabric stash). And in a funny, almost-hidden way, it's absolutely a bulwark against mortality. It's a way of telling myself: There will be time for everything.
Which brings me to David Bowie. It was striking how within hours of the announcement of his death -- a surprise to all but those closest to him -- pretty much the entire Internet had realized that with his last album, released just days before, Bowie had essentially written his own eulogy.
I won't pretend here that I am a fan of Bowie's -- or a hater, either; I don't know much of anything at all about his music. (I am what is known as a musical putz, actually). If you, like me, are more literarily than musically inclined, there's also this: a posthumously published memoir by Paul Kalanithi, who was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer while studying to be a neurosurgeon. An excerpt appears here in the New Yorker.
The juxtaposition of these two pieces of art have me thinking about creativity and the art that people make when they know they are dying. (N.B. in case it wasn't obvious: We are all dying.) I'm sorry if this all seems morbid, but there's actually a psychological argument to be made that thinking more about our own deaths will in fact make us happier.
What does all this have to do with stuff? I have also sometimes allowed myself to acknowledge a sneaking suspicion that this very habit of taking on too much, and having too many planned projects (and the supplies that accompany them) actually hampers creativity, makes it more difficult for me to focus on completing any one thing.
And, sure, there's a balance to be struck here. I'm not shedding my entire queue, just trying to make it a little shorter, so I can focus more completely on the next thing. And acknowledging that some projects aren't going to come to fruition, and then letting them go, is actually producing a weird kind of optimism for me. For example I would love to learn to crochet, but let's face it, I'm not likely to work that into my schedule any time soon. So it doesn't make sense to stockpile a bunch of yarn and thread. But, maybe later in my life, who knows? Perhaps I'll have a crochet season. There will be time for everything.