Ogi, a Material Boy, Living in a Material World
I used to have an old Greenville hippie buddy named Jay Dillon. Now Jay, like most hippies, was a fine fellow, but unlike your garden variety low-dough, he’d somehow managed to scrape together enough money to buy a van. He was a popular guy already, but once he became the proud owner of a used-but-not-abused van, naturally we all took it upon ourselves to begin abusing it. Suddenly Jay found himself as president and CEO of the Hippie Moving Company of Greenville. For five bucks or the green leafy equivalent thereof, he would move you anywhere in town, sometimes relocating as many as three or fur freaks a week.
Looking back on it now, the thing that sticks out about the way we lived back then – at least the parts I can remember – is that everyone could get everything they owned in one van load. All my earthly possessions could and did fit in Jay’s van. He may have even had a rule that anything that wouldn’t fit in one load got thrown to the curb so that the next hippie who came stumbling along could rummage through it and take what he needed.
So that became one of our little counterculture credos: If you had more than you could fit in Jay’s van, you had too much stuff. Which dovetailed quite nicely with the whole anti-materialistic/pro-spiritualistic theme that the ’60s embodied.
Yes, we were naive and idealistic and too young to know any better. And no, I don’t live in the past and don’t advocate a retreat to that mentality in its entirety. But there were certain elements of the peace-and-love era that I could do well to revisit.
Namely, the fact that I have way too much stuff. The list below took all of five minutes to compile, yet reveals some serious yuppie scum tendencies that I’m not proud of.
Off the top of my balding head, here are a few things I have too much or too many of: furniture, dress shirts, socks, neckties, books, sports memorabilia, CDs, animals (although my wife would dispute that), flashlights, magazines, Christmas decorations, coffee cups, travel mugs, T-shirts, old media guides, wall hangings, baseball caps, framed pictures, ballpoint pens, winter coats, candles and umbrellas.
It’s pathetic. It’s obscene. I swear, it’s a disease. A few months ago I put down a hundred bucks to rent a flea market space to liquidate some of this crap, but can’t even pull it together to sort through it all. I regularly make trips to the Goodwill, throw some of it away periodically and give it away, yet still barely have room to move around the house.
Granted, I am a packrat but I don’t know where along the way I became a conspicuous consumer, when I began believing the bumper sticker that reads, “He who has the most stuff wins.” But I have come to believe that it is a sickness. I have become a prisoner to my possessions. They control me. They whisper, “Wear me, hang me, iron me, drive me, use me, read me, look at me, listen to me, find a place to put me.” They demand time and space, the two things I don’t have enough of – other than money, which I would have plenty of if I didn’t have so much stuff, all of which costs money. (See what a vicious circle this is?)
My possessions abuse me; they mock me by exposing my obsessive-compulsive nature. They make me out to be the insecure person that I am. They expose my feelings of inadequacy, attempting to mask them with a little retail therapy. But it’s no substitute for getting to the root cause; it’s merely a symptom of something deeper.
The fact that I feel this need to surround myself with creature comforts illustrates that there is something lacking in my life. And that something is, of course, spirituality.
All this has come to a head yet again for two reasons. We are getting ready to move (for the last time) again and I’m faced with the prospect of either parting with or moving all my junk. Plus, Bush’s blackmail checks are going out, and he’s imploring us all to go out and spend, spend, spend – the brilliant economic policy of Boy George.
So, I see this as a test. Will I run out and buy a few more neckties and miscellaneous crap that I don’t need or will I heed the words to the Country Gentlemen song and “think a little more of others and a little less of me”? What would be the problem with throwing a five spot rather than pocket change in the Salvation Army bucket? Or writing a small check to Urban Ministry, Habitat for Humanity or the Make-A-Wish Foundation?
Or sending Jay Dillon some old love beads and bell bottoms and black lights and that old Hendrix album.
Ogi may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, heard Tuesdays at 9:30 a.m. on “The Dusty Dunn Show” on WGOS 1070 AM, and seen on “Triad Today” hosted by Jim Longworth on ABC 45 at 6:30 a.m. Fridays and on WMYV 48 at 10 p.m. Sundays.