Recently, someone wrote: "... I walked my dog (pathetically fettered as I am) ... stared at the hot bar at the Piggly Wiggly ... refreshed my Facebook news feed. What would my life be, if I freed it of circumstance?"
I began to try to unravel the quote.
Exactly what is "circumstance"?
It's just all those things that make up a life, right?
How could anyone be absolutely free of circumstance if s/he were alive?
S/he could, I suppose, simply clear life of all the ties that bind ... everything from relationships to jobs to possessions that make demands on time and other resources. Then wipe out hobbies. Possessions make demands too.
So ... if I were to clear my life of everything that makes demands of any kind, I would get rid of my dog, my house, my car, my computer, books, DVDs, CDs, most of my clothes and household goods, all my art, everything to do with teaching or creating funky furniture, my bike, kayak, skiis, snowshoes, and kicksled, and all the human bonds: my friendships, family ties, group memberships.
What would I be left with?
The clothes on my back and a pack filled with the basic needs I take on trips. My bank book would be heavier, and I would feel infinitely lighter ...
I would also feel awfully lost.
I derive pleasure from my dog, my home, my computer, my books, my DVDs, my art, from teaching and creating funky furniture, and from the important relationships in my life.
But more importantly they all help to define me.
And I don't think she was talking about clearing out closets or selling off CDs you seldom listen to. I think she meant the things in our lives that demand time, energy and money (which are just other names for time).
The problem with being footloose and fancy free is that it leaves you without a home base and without the security of love.
I have been a nomad (but even then I had my life in storage waiting for me). It taught me that how much I needed to have a home where I felt, not only secure, but enriched, and free to be myself.
Except for Kenya, I have no one depending on me these days, and it is liberating, but it also leaves a hollow space that cannot be filled with activity. If I were to lose the other relationships I value, I would be very lonely.
I think my response to her question is this:
Without circumstance, without all the things that make demands on us, our lives would be empty and meaningless.
It is probably a good little exercise to remind us that we can do with fewer things, fewer demands ... but I honestly don't think it is possible to strip away circumstance and still have a life that is worth living.
What do you think?