Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The value of a thing

I take it as a given that people are generally undervalued, and things generally over valued. It is hard to tell when or where such an insidious inversion of value gets started, but there is evidence of it all around. It starts early. A child breaks a dish or spills a glass. The next thing that often happens is they get disciplined as if they did something wrong. A harsh word, a bit of yelling, maybe something more. At that moment the “thing” has more value than the kid.

Relationships are often sacrificed to things, people simply refusing to let go of something they hold dear, even at the cost of harming another. All of us have been victims. All of us have been perpetrators.

Often, the longer we hold onto a thing, the more value we think it has. In our minds the thing gets filled with history, memories, and emotions. It has become a talisman, its value far surpassing any original price tag. Usually being attached to such a talisman is harmless, filling the background of a life with fondness and a subtle joy. Items like a grandfather's pocket knife or a mother's wedding ring become something that could never be sold, partly because no one would ever meet the asking price. It is good that most such talismans are small and portable. They get left behind only when we shuffle off to whatever comes “after”. The next generation gets to struggle over the value.

Sometimes items bigger, less portable, and less worthy also become talismans. Items like houses, cars, and furniture. Items that cruisers often need to leave behind. Items whose selling price will help fund the kitty. And items that often seem much more valuable to the those doing the selling than to anyone who might be buying.

Deb and I sold just about everything we had to make it to this cruising life. The three big items were the house, the Z-car, and the motorcycle. There were smaller items sold as well, riding gear, tools, bits of this, pieces of that. We would have sold more of those kinds of things but we ran out of time. Selling things is labor intensive so, if you are heading this way, start selling early. It will take much longer than you think and, if our experience is indicative of “normal”, you will get far less than you believe the things are worth. It can be discouraging, discovering the things we value have less value than we thought.

But the truth is that meaning has value. Memories have value. Experiences have value. The best any thing can do is reflect the value of the meaning it helps one discover, the memories it helps one form, or the experiences it allows one to have. After those tasks are done, the thing has no value at all.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Well said Tim. I surely felt this way last summer when we divested ourselves of all of our "stuff". I heard the giant flushing sound of cash we should have saved to spend on adventures vs. dust collectors. The shells collected in the Bahamas and passed on to our grandchildren had way more value in the story that came along with them than the "dollar" value of many other things that they have in their lives. I only hope that they will treasure the dream of things to come over the material "stuff" that our culture advertises as important. Hope you and Deb are well! Hope to see you soon!