August 10, 2015
Take a minute; let’s talk about stuff.
First, let’s make sure we’re talking about the same stuff. Stuff comes in three varieties. Stuff 1 (its synonym is “dunk”) is a verb; if you’re in the NBA, it’s one of your monetized assets. Outside sports, it can be literal (as in, “to pack tightly”) or, figurative (as in, “gorge”). Stuff 2 is often a noun of generalization; used by teenagers to avoid specifics (“we’re just going to do stuff”), or by adults without an agenda (“I have some stuff to do at the office”) who are looking for some relational space.
The stuff I’d like to talk about is Stuff 3; that’s the tangible noun that we use to describe most anything of material substance that is not real property; depreciating consumables of every variety.
The Wall Street Journal prints a weekend edition on Saturdays that is a slight change-up from the international markets-and-politics emphases in the Monday-Friday versions. Assuming that their readers are able to be more genteel and urbane while out of the workday frenzy, their editorial features tell stories designed to ring personal bells. In this week’s Off Duty section – dedicated to eating, drinking, style, fashion, design, decorating, adventure, travel, gear and gadgets (from the masthead) – was the weekly high-class Celebration of Stuff 3 (hereinafter, just “stuff”).
Gear and Gadgets were pages 11 & 12, and they were reaching for my envy button, hoping to trigger a reaction. A full page was devoted to a review of the BMW X6 M. Dan Neil’s opening paragraph: “(It) costs $ 109,995 as tested, and is yet remarkably useless. Your head starts to spin the moment you open the driver’s door; Whoa, the cabin is tiny…” The last words of the page: “Where am I going to put the groceries? Never mind. More than metallic paints and fine hides and a towering price tag, the X6 M qualifies as a luxury item by virtue of its divine spark of uselessness.” I was rescued by page 11; the spread – with pictures – was a side-by-side review of three electric skateboards.
Somewhere between the high school punk with a hoodie and a death wish and the helmeted geek riding the Segway through Central Park is the market for the electric skateboard. From the three models described – the Boosted Single, Evolve Carbon All Terrain, and the Yuneec E-Go – most of us could find the best fit for what is probably, right now, an empty place in our Stuff inventory.
Priced from $700 to $1800 – with top speeds from 12 to 23 mph – I could focus on my off-road adventures or my daily commute (neither of which are part of my life) in making my selection. With recharging times from 1 to 5 hours, my carbon footprint would probably land me an invitation to a Bernie Sanders rally… into which I could ride any of the three, with a fair amount of crowd acceptance.
Like I need more stuff! In my lifetime, the rise of Stuff – in quantity – has created new demands on so many levels. One trip to Costco – with a flatbed cart – brings home more Stuff on a Saturday than most last-gen families acquired in a year. With Saturday’s new stuff, the recent – but, now displaced – stuff in the house goes to the garage. Last year’s stuff – still under extended warranty, and mostly unused – is exiled from garage to self-storage, down by the train tracks. The dusty stuff that was in the storage unit is now delivered to the Salvation Army – in exchange for a tax-deductible receipt – and the lifecycle of stuff reaches its practical end.
None of my stuff will last as long as I do; my kids will have to dispense with any of the stuff that I leave behind. They won’t want my stuff; they have their own. God help me: I’ve spent so much time in my life envying stuff, shopping for stuff, buying stuff, storing stuff, insuring stuff, fixing stuff, moving stuff, breaking stuff, selling stuff, giving away stuff.
“I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” (Luke 16:9) Jesus’ good advice: invest in people instead of stuff. I’ll leave my stuff here… and the people will be waiting for me, there.
I’m canceling my order for the new BMW and the Evolve Carbon All Terrain skateboard,