I am quick to jot striking phrases or thoughts down as soon as I hear them, and then due to my incredibly faulty yet youthful memory, I can reread them like they are brand new the very next week or following year. I found one today in my handy iPhone notes app that reads, “It’s not about having things; it’s about doing things.”
My friend Scott, who comes from what he calls “Pennsyltucky,” can rewire your entire computer, take incredible photos, and can name and properly use every tool in the shed said that this summer. This past summer, I worked on a dude ranch in Southwest Colorado called 4UR, and apart from tacos and beer, I bought only one pair of outdoor shoes. The only possible explanation I can muster is that I felt so full and in balance that there was no longer space for objects of materiality.
They had been pushed outwards from my center as laughter, long trail walks with a loyal dog, building fires at 13,000 feet and watching the gentle sway of a fly rod filled my insides to capacity. I felt no longing to concern myself with the competition that accompanies appearance or status that I felt immediately upon returning to “civilization” (any town with more than 500 people).
Every few days I will oscillate between switching my focus to doing things, and either by laziness or happenstance, the “having things” finds a way to creep in. Try it. For just one day, do things that you love doing or that you have never done before. When you lie down at night for rest, gauge how full you feel. Then have a day where your concern lies in appearance or material accumulation, and then tell me that you feel fuller than the prior day. You won’t.
It is so simple, but we fall victim to a material life so instantly and repetitively. This is similar to the practice of meditation, where mindful chatter is to be avoided and clarity of mind is the goal. You don’t fail at meditation if you can’t achieve mindlessness, you are succeeding as long as you keep refocusing when you wander to a thought. Wandering down a road of meaningless possessions seems to dent me a little, but is immediately replenished with a swipe of my paintbrush or a walk through a flowery field. Doing things sums to far more than having things.