Musings, Day One

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; Remember that what you have now was once among the things you had only hoped for.” –Epicurus

I have a lot of things at home that I really want to pick up and take back with me. Jewelry—specifically Medousa-themed items, and a necklace bearing Rav Hillel’s famous maxim, “If I am not for myself….”—some electronics—a new computer, a phone to replace my Pixel 3 which has died, a short-wave radio for news from home, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. I even want to fetch my Russian caps out of storage.

But the truth is, that for all these things I want, whether to enhance and display my sense of self, or for my convenience, I do already have everything I actually need. I have clothes, whether or not I like what styles I currently have. I do have a computer that, for now, works, with which I can stay in touch with family and friends, and continue to write and publish, even if it isn’t good enough for gaming. I have plenty of food and water available to me. I have a warm place to sleep, a refrigerator, and even a Western-style toilet.

I often catch myself longing for those other material things as if they mattered more than they really do. I must admit, it is an uncomfortable and embarrassing feeling, if I’m honest. I try to avoid going online to Amazon; while I can afford most of what I want these days, Amazon generally does not deliver to China. In fact, I did give in earlier last year to get things I desired, and now they are stockpiled along with my mail at my kid brother’s house in New Jersey. It feels a bit unfair, but since losing my house in 2019, what else can I do for a U.S. address?

I had been using Amazon’s shopping cart as a way to pretend to myself to be shopping; I could simply reserve items I wanted without actually making the purchase. But, after a while, I caved in and bought the items stored in my cart. It was too tantalizing and I did not have the willpower to resist my more avaricious proclivities.

Why do I seem to want what I haven’t got when I already have what I need? Am I so grasping and shallow? I have a large storage locker in which I have kept as much as I could from Grammom’s house. And it really hurt when I had to sell the house, but couldn’t be there to rescue childhood toys and games from the attic. It costs nearly USD$300.00 each month to keep that storage unit; but I pay it gladly. For now. Why do I do that? I could be saving that money. What is the likelihood that I’ll ever be able to return to the United States and have my own home again? It feels useless, yet I can’t shake the compulsion.

I wonder if it has to do with an unsettled childhood. Moving house every few years when I was a child, or so it seemed. I really wanted a permanent haven. I never learned to be a true traveler of the world. It’s as if I’m looking to things for a sense of permanence. Or security.

Material things should not have such a hold on me, I know. But, alas, they do. I am not yet a True Sage, I guess.

I shall have to try harder to quell my greed and concentrate on what I have here and now, and try to do what I can, here and now. I have students to instruct and guide, and I have books to write.

“And miles to go before I sleep….” Though not so many now as when I should’ve come to these realizations.

About Michael Butchin

I was born, according to the official records, in the Year of the Ram, under the Element of Fire, when Johnson ruled the land with a heavy heart; in the Cradle of Liberty, to a family of bohemians. I studied Chinese language and literature at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. I spent some years in Taiwan teaching kindergarten during the day, and ESOL during the evenings. I currently work as a high school ESOL teacher, and am an unlikely martial artist. I have spent much of my life amongst actors, singers, movie stars, beautiful cultists, Taoist immortals, renegade monks, and at least one martial arts tzaddik. I currently reside in Beijing's Dongcheng district
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1 Response to Musings, Day One

  1. Lisette Root says:

    I feel you Michael, I struggle sometimes with the very same things. I want to evolve into that being of light that does not want or need, but I am not there yet. We recently moved into our new home, well actually it has been darn near exactly a year, and I have been trying to fully go through our things and sort them out. I realized I had a few things missing, their value is most likely nominal but they mattered to me. I have not laid eyes on my collection of arrowheads and ancient tools, and my little hunk of metallic meteorite I found, and my crucible. I have not lost all hope yet, but I have actually grieved over their loss, and have sort of come to terms with it.
    I have rocks that I have literally carried with me since 1981. I form strong attachments to rocks and minerals, and metal and wood. The things I have found. Strange isn’t it? But then I do have attachments to other things as well, photographs, artworks and art supplies are the most important to me. I think it is part of being human, and sometimes it sucks lemons. Sometimes I think about the fact I will probably never use all the supplies I have, but I am going to try! I want to leave beauty behind when I cross The Rainbow Bridge, I suppose that’s a bit arrogant of me because what I think is beautiful may not be to others. And i won’t know either way. But I feel so sad that your treasures were taken away by fate, and by your move to China. You create beauty with words, and those words will continue on, that is very special and something I myself treasure. I still feel Medusa in my bones…


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