Sunday, March 6, 2011

Public Nudity

After thirty-five years of ornamenting my person and embellishing my surroundings, I am now divesting. I recognize that many of the things which I have acquired either no longer interest me or do nothing whatever stuck in a dark drawer. Stripping one’s self of the accoutrements of cultivated society is a manifestly relieving experience. Not only does it lighten the load, it also makes practical sense. Certainly there was a time when I derived pleasure from my things, but as the scope of my social and other vistas narrows I am less inclined to indulge myself in the same materials. The journey towards objective liberty is admittedly prompted in no small measure by the desire to turn back the tide of unbridled spendthrift habits. I can at least say that not all is for naught, since many of the articles which I am abandoning, while not all having appreciated have at least held their own which is more than I can say for most consumables.

I have found it quite amazing how much stress I suffered under the burden of these material possessions. For example, it was a constant concern of mine that the Fred Coburn painting which adorned a wall of my office reception was at perpetual risk of being bleached by the invading afternoon sun rays, the product of tall windows and an uninhibited southern exposure. There was also the nagging worry about the lack of insurance on the piece. This theme spread to articles of fine jewellery. Without insurance one is compelled to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of the cost of and the choice to forego insurance or at the very least to develop strategy for the proper preservation or secretion of the articles. More stress! Similarly if it becomes a question of putting everything into a safe deposit box one really has to wonder what is the value of keeping it. Most often the precious articles are not even something which anyone else might desire to have (we forget the highly personal element in these matters). Even if one doesn’t put it in a box, some things are simply ignored, like grand pianos which imperceptibly acquire more an element of furniture than that of a fine musical instrument. At least I never graduated to the doily or silver framed photograph stage!

So after much reflection and abstract musing upon the subject I awoke one day this week and decided it was time to strip and go naked! Though I had no exact idea how to accomplish the task I began by detaching myself from the superfluous glitter. I put it all aside in one pile. It staggered me to see it so unceremoniously gathered in a heap like so much discarded rubbish. I was also shocked to recall how much time, money and energy I had spent acquiring it. The obsessions of a lifetime, like a mid-20th century French play, suddenly began to border upon the absurd. Nonetheless as an instinctive opportunist and inveterate optimist I was motivated by the belief that the product would fetch the interest of someone somewhere. As it turns out my conviction was not entirely unfounded. The Coburn and a Dutch number for example have by now gone to the fine art auctioneers in Ottawa, headed for both national and international circuits. The Rolex and Cartier watches, together with the many other baubles and trinkets I have collected (I reserved only my signet ring with the family crest) are on their way to a meeting with the chief gemologist of a Toronto auction house. The Steinway mahogany grand has set off more than a few alarm bells though it is proving to be the most complicated item to dispose of; however, in the world of high-end things one expects to encounter such temporary impediments and hitches.

Quite aside from the delays and negotiations which I anticipate, it is manifest that the focus of my life has changed. In its broadest terms the distinction is between acquisition and disposition, between money and things, between trouble-free and problematical. I won’t say that I have idyllic visions of living in the forest in a thatched hut! Without being facetious it is undeniable that within the context of one’s own life-long experience there are changing levels of materialism, accumulation and simplicity which become more suitable and convenient with the effluxtion of time. Just as nature teaches us how to die, so too do we acquire the preliminary talent of letting go of the appendages to our material existence. Eventually we shall say that we have no pleasure in them.

What some mistake for the stubbornness of the elderly may in fact be nothing more than contentment of being oneself. Once one lets fall the paraphernalia what remains is essentially what we started with though hopefully imbued with an inner fabric of knowledge, experience and spirit. To relish one’s own fascination with the world and perhaps to be lucky enough to share it with others ultimately predicts the focus of our energies. To become distracted is to risk dabbling in the irrelevant. In this respect there is urgency to the course of action. It is all too easy to become derailed in one’s objectives by clinging needlessly to the past, to mementos which no longer have any meaning or significance. The moment you determine to go starkers, there’s no turning back! It isn’t the same as donning one’s clothing after a refreshing swim in the lake; rather it is a matter of preserving a more simple existence, “au naturel” so to speak.

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