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April 2005

My love/hate relationship with my stuff

Moving across the world has meant turning my life upside down and examining everything from every angle.  The amount of thought that has gone into what to do with each and every thing I own is absurd.  I've had to categorize everything into four buckets: 1) stuff I will bring with me on the flight, 2) stuff I will ship for $1 per arrive in a few months, 3) stuff I will put in storage and maybe ship in a 20-foot container when we get settled (or else have here when we return), and 4) stuff I will sell, throw away, or give away.

On what basis do I determine this?  When space is scarce, how can I prioritize between my noise-cancellation headset, for example, and another pair of my wife's shoes?  The way I see it, I should only own something if it either helps me make a living, adds significant convenience, or adds beauty or knowledge to my life.  Well, that covers nearly I've had to discriminate further.  The next question to ask is how often something is used.  This requires both a consideration of past use, and likely use in the future based on anticipated lifestyle changes.  The problem with anticipating lifestyle changes is I really can't...well, I try to, but all I see are multiple dependencies that will lead to various divergent paths.  Worse than having to manage stuff I already have, over the past several months I've had to buy many new items such as power adapters, computers, and other technology.

If you've read this far, you've read enough to know that this is a pain in the ass.  So much so that I'm more excited about the day that I move out of my apartment with my bags packed than the day that I actually arrive in Europe.  At this point I just want to be free from my stuff.   Now I say that with a straight face, but will carry with me a suitecase full of electronics that I "need".

Nevertheless, what I've learned from this experience is that I need to reflect before bringing anything new into my home.  So much of what I've purchased or been given has been used so little, and so it has become nothing more than a burden.  So do I throw this stuff away or give it to Goodwill only to pass on the burden to someone else?  The guilt I feel over the waste I produce is significant, and again I have a suitecase full of only electronics...stuff that is expensive and valuable now, but will surely be obsolete and thrown away in a few years. 

At any rate, the idea that more is better is absurd.  The idea that bigger is better is also absurd.   The growing complexity of the world combined with our more dynamic lifestyles makes this quite clear.  Each time we bring something new into our homes, we need to understand the burden that comes along with it.

Truth-seekers: changing the world by making wisdom the new cool

We have been tricked into allowing a group of white collar criminals to take over our government. Why did this happen? Maybe Americans are, in fact, too conservative or maybe these cronies have better messaging…but that still doesn’t explain how we were so easily fooled. They tricked us because we simply aren’t intelligent enough to catch on.

Those of us who know better attempt to cure society’s ills with simple, elegant, “silver bullet” solutions (pick an issue: corporate person-hood, media control, vote fraud, etc.). But success in any or all of these areas will only result in ultimate failure if our progress is not grounded in the minds of a critically thinking, intelligent citizenry. 

Education is the only solution that, without a doubt, simply works. An intelligent citizen cannot be fooled by any amount of propaganda. Access to the right learning opportunities changes us forever, allowing us to seize our individual and collective human potential.

We also know that not all education is equal. We do not need more academic factories that indoctrinate us by killing creativity, passion, and critical thinking with too much fear, structure, routine, and memorization. Lacking is a curricula based on truth-seeking and Critical Thinking Skills, which are developed through work in areas such as Logic, English Composition, and Debate. Logic immunizes us to propaganda. English Composition and Debate are both unparalleled in helping students overcome flawed reasoning while at the same time giving them the skills they need to succeed in any academic or work environment. 

Instead of expecting public education to fix itself, why not take matters into our own hands? Why not organize large-scale clubs, across the country, open to anyone who wants to join? We can call it Truth-Seekers. We can brand it, advertise it, and we can make education the new cool. We’ll start by getting enough smart people together to develop a curriculum that has maximum impact. We’ll teach the survival skills that start members on their individual paths toward wisdom. We’ll evaluate performance not with grades, but by measuring their individual degrees of improvement. We’ll demonstrate such phenomenal results that membership in Truth-Seekers even becomes an extra-curricular activity, encouraged by parents, that even helps teens get into college.

The elite have their think-tanks to advance their causes; the simple-minded have their churches to advance their lunacy; but what have we offered lately but criticism? With a lot of work, everyone involved in this movement can grow, network, and open minds.  This is a tangible, measurable way to change the world.

I'd be happy to help with this sort of movement in any way I can.  Please contact me to discuss.