One City

I’m on vacation this week – here is one of my favorites previously published on our old blog site:

breaking my attachment to physical power and possessions because only
through destroying myself can I discover the greater power of my spirit”
~Tyler Durden – Fight Club

While I chastise myself not being more imaginative
than quoting Fight Club, when I am feeling very anti-materialistic or
anti-consumer culture, it is quotes from the book/movie that always pop
into my mind. But I do love the irony that Fight Club rails against
consumerism, material goods, and promotes the destruction of the self
and yet manages to inspire the opposite in the legions of fans who buy
things in order to express that Fight Club somehow represents who they
are. And it is this push away and pull towards objects that I want to

While we may rail against consumerism,
sometimes we are just pulled to certain material things. They bring us
joy and excitement.  Aaron C. Ahuvia argues in his article, Beyond the Extended Self: Loved Objects and Consumers’ Identity Narratives,
that some “loved” objects that we own help us create a coherent story
of ourselves. Loved objects and activities help to structure our social
relationships and support our well-being. Objects can tell stories. They can hold family
histories. They can represent friendships and symbolize marriages. They
recreate our culture. We pass them down from generation to generation.

I can find beauty and love embedded in objects
– from amazing works of art to my father’s neckties. However I have a
hard time putting my finger on the point when this craving for objects
goes from meaningful storytelling, family heirlooms, or culture
regeneration to excessive disposable waste. When do objects become
disposable? When do they go from loved items to just the latest fashion

I know people who love shoes. I mean really love
shoes. To them, they are loved objects of intense personal meaning.
They tell a story (“I bought those shoes for a party in the Spring of
1986 at a wonderful store in Paris”). They can’t be replaced. They are
seen as works of art and beauty. But how long will they last? How many
pairs of shoes can you love? How many resources did they use up? Are
you really your shoes?

Do we truly work towards giving up all material
objects in our lives? Do we learn to no longer express our “selves”
through material objects? Do we give up the history and meanings that
arise from objects as well as the meanings are embedded onto them by
our minds and collective culture? What would that look like?

“The liberator who destroys my property, is
fighting to save my spirit. The teacher who clears all possessions from
my path will set me free.”
~Tyler Durden, Fight Club

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