Futility Transcended, Out of the Mouth of a Babe

Jack, my across-the-street neighbor, died during the spring after a short illness. He had lived alone for about five years after his wife died of cancer. His eulogy is respectable, and, overall, he was an asset to our lives. He was a good neighbor. Today, Saturday morning, marks the day of the final disbursement of his estate: the house is sold and the stuff remaining in it has been piled, with some care, onto the lawn for a garage sale.

Consumerism annoys me, not least because of parking. For the next two days, my driveway will be the cul-de-sac for the vultures picking over poor Jack’s bones, looking for stuff amidst his stuff. It really is disgusting. I say this acutely aware of my own hypocrisy, the owner of a piece of undeveloped land not far from my house so I can make like Wilderness Man with no potable water, electricity, or any other accoutrements of home, all of which can be found in a two-minute drive down the road. There’s even a pizzeria which will deliver to my wilderness outpost within twenty minutes at the push of a button on my smart phone. Fie! Fie upon thee, consumerism!

What I really dislike, of course, is the notion that one day all too soon, my stuff will be piled onto the front lawn for the children of the same vultures to pick over, looking for stuff. I called to my younger son, whose name is Jack (8 years old), and I pointed across the street, saying to him, “There’s Jack’s stuff” (see what I did there?).

“Really?” he said, and he paused for a moment, surveying the swarm. “It doesn’t look like much.”

“No,” I said. “And one day, your stuff will be piled on the lawn, just like his.”

“That’s okay,” he said, without a moment’s hesitation. “I won’t need it anymore.” He looked for a moment more, then returned to his room, where his stuff is.

It is okay, the accumulation phase of life, isn’t it? After all, we need stuff. Jack-across-the-street’s stuff includes many blankets. They look comfortable.


It was weird going through someone else’s Christmas decorations; I demurred. The boys picked up a nice walkie-talkie set, with no charger, and two flashlights, batteries included. One of Jack’s daughters met me, saying, “And here it is, the entirety of Jack and Connie’s life, laid out.”

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