I brought a suitcase full of books with me when I traveled to Lander, Wyoming for work. I was anxious about the nine weeks that I would spend away, and I felt ambitious about how much reading I could do while far away from the social obligations and distractions of normal life.
It was comforting to bring the small, heavy suitcase books up the stairs to my little room and stack them on my desk. A mixture of science fiction/fantasy novels, James Baldwin, Pablo Neruda and other poetry collections, and rock climbing guides.
I failed to take into account that I would be living in a building with a library in it. In a town which also had a library. And I could only read for so many hours after working a full day and often rock climbing for several hours in the evening.
Now, I’ve set aside a small box of approximately a dozen books that I feel I must own. I’ve purged several boxes of books already, and there are still more to be dealt with. Some need to be returned to their original owners, some should be given to friends, some I am holding onto because I want to read them someday, and all are only difficult to part with because I have space to keep them now. But even those books that I’ve deemed precious to me, the books which I turn to time and time again, the books which comfort me to have and hold and look at– I know that I could do without those books, too.
Because there are libraries. Not only the traditional kind, but the little free libraries in various neighborhoods. I’ve more than once finished a book in one long sitting at a bookstore. I don’t want to turn books into furniture. Even the beloved books of mine feel sort of wasted. If I love them so, shouldn’t I share them?
The more I talk about detachment, the more I practice, the more I wonder how purposeful it is. The open space does make me feel lighter, feel more free, but I know that detachment from these objects is only a part of what is really necessary: detachment from ideas and thoughts that hold me back, detachment from what keeps me from pursuing what is not really so out of reach. There’s a base assumption that if I make my load light enough, I’ll be able to float toward my dreams. In reality, what is needed, and what is hardest, is to jump.
This is what my meditations on attachment and minimalism come down to: learning to jump by throwing things overboard.