Things Mound Up

Much of life is spent busily moving toward a goal of less work, less burden, fewer problems and more peace and freedom. We assume that school, raising a family and succeeding in a career will bring the reward of leisure, fun and a more carefree life.

What is not taken into account in this appraisal is that nothing goes away completely. Everything we do in life, every contact we make, every choice, mounds up. The junk in the garage and closets starts to take on a life of its own like some alien creature pupating and swelling uncontrollably, threatening to bury and smother us. These bulging incubators in our homes are a reflection of what is happening on a grander scale in the rest of our lives.

The more life activity, the more the mound grows. If you have made a lot of social contact, this creates personal responsibilities and history to nag you. If there are children, then you carry concern for them for life. Children compound into grandchildren for you to worry about. At work there is the burden of fellow workers or employees. Excess money and the goodies purchased with it become a chore to manage. Worse yet would be credit obligation and interest debt because, of course, all the trinkets had to be had right away.

All life choices queue up behind us like railroad cars as the years march on. They aren’t easily disengaged or disposed of. Almost everything is retained – at least in the mind and conscience – to some degree or another. Over time the length of the train becomes an enormous burden to pull. The dreamed of devil-may-care golden years can turn into worrisome and obligating toil as you lose steam chugging down life’s track. Or you may find yourself accelerating toward some as yet unknown calamity as the momentum and mass of all the railcars you’ve stacked behind yourself push you down a hill no matter how hard you pull on the brakes.

I’m sure that it is this early realization by some that leads them to decide to drop out entirely, move into the woods, build a hut and live off the land. Thoreau’s life is envied by most of us at one time or another.1 But if we were to move to Walden Pond, we would replace modern living problems with others – like what to eat today, to name just one not-too-little problem. No matter where we are at, life is about challenge and it cannot be avoided.

We can’t plan on things getting easier and less complicated as the years pass. They don’t. The assumption that what we do today ends is an illusion. Our job is thus to not get sucked into the commercial feeding frenzy and to manage the size of our mound before it gets out of hand. It can be somewhat neat and tidy but if we live with material and ethical abandon it can be a gigantic, festering heap threatening to bury us.

Every life choice comes back to give pleasure, regret or responsibility. Things just do not go away. The sooner we can begin acting with intelligent foresight, the better chance we will have of creating a fulfilling and meaningful life, not one occupied with garage management.

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