Sunday, December 16, 2018

Things too hard to toss

There are two things people are unable to bring themselves to throw away—old keys and National Geographic magazines. Well, three. Books. Most books. At my library, people donate to our used book store all manner of unsaleable gems. Computer textbooks from 1985, religious pamphlets, microwave oven manuals. This comes from the ancient human impulse which goes all the way back to when a caveman first set a meatless elk skeleton at a crossroads "just in case somebody can use it." 

Humans collect keys. They pile up in empty peanut cans in the garage or gather on key-rings hung in the kitchen cupboard. Why? BECAUSE THEY "GO TO" SOMETHING. How will I ever unlock the things these keys go to if I throw them away? Yet once the collection gets past five keys, no human on Earth has ever had the will to methodically take them around to items with keyholes and test them. We intend to. Some day, when there's time. We intend to see the Northern Lights some day too.

National Geographic magazines are the most beautifully produced things humans have managed to achieve thus far, plus they are ringed with a golden border. You can't just throw something ringed with a golden border in the trash! Each issue contains fascinating, surprising insights about our world which, before Facebook, could only be found within. And the pictures! They are art and science in one. A horde of very bright people put together each issue. And every human on Earth bought one, even in outer Mongolia, and then stored it in his garage or tool yurt. 

Once we have learned, from a golden-bordered copy, all there is to learn about, say, the radioactive reindeer of Chernobyl, we store it, and store the next issue and the next, until we have what is known, in scientific terms, as a "sh*t-ton." Then, in a rare fit of non-procrastination, we take this in boxes to the library, where maybe somebody can use them. People who have never seen them can use them, absolutely. These people do not exist on Earth.  

Everyone who has ever lived has dropped off three cases of pristine, golden-bordered beauties at the library, but the library already has bound copies, collected by year, going back to 1934. So that leaves the used book store, but they receive roughly four sh*t-tons every week, so they become your surrogate. They do the dirty deed. They toss them in the trash for you. You don't have to witness the discarding of a fellow human's hard intellectual efforts. I am not judging. I absolve you. It is a difficult thing to see. A lot of people, from the slaughterhouse to Congress, do things we need done but don't want to behold.

Come January 1st, a new show on Netflix debuts, starring Marie Kondo. She is the author of the wild best-seller from a few years ago, "The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up." Her clutter-reducing philosophy is basically hey, if it's not a functional item, a pot or steam iron or bath towel, and it doesn't bring you joy, toss it. Seriously. Joy. That is a high bar to get over. Kondo would toss your clump of old keys so fast. Sayonara, radioactive reindeer!

In the preview, she appears at people's doors like a tiny Japanese Mary Poppins, and commences kicking clutter's ass. I will be all over that show. What's more fun than watching other people make hard, mature decisions without making them yourself? Is "clutter porn" a term? There's a lot to unpack here. I wonder where I left those keys.