You know that Capital One TV commercial that uses the tagline, “What’s in Your Wallet”? It’s pretty funny the way they use Alec Baldwin and random unruly Vikings to promote their credit card and associated line of credit. Most of us are understandably concerned with how much money we have and what we can afford, with or without the plastic cards that we proudly display when purchasing something. The black Amex card, the one they call “The Centurion” is supposed to be reserved for the wealthiest and most “elite” members of society, hence the ultimate sign of affluence and “deep pockets”.
As usual, this got me thinking in the opposite direction, about what we DONT like to display and instead of what we buy, what we tend to HIDE, or at least what others dont see. Something tells me I’m not the only person with a basement full of crap and a storage space littered with the flotsam and jetsam of a failed first marriage. Storage Wars is a big hit for many different reasons. Sure we all like a good bargain, but just like going to estate sales there is something ghostly and almost morbid about looking through somebody’s lifetime of acquired objects and wondering, “What happened? Were they happy? How did they die? What kind of problems did they struggle with as a couple and family? Did they love someone deeply or was their life an ongoing tragedy out of Gone With the Wind or Sophie’s Choice?” I always end up wondering what people picking through my closets and my household possessions would say besides, “Hmmm, these must be his skinny clothes….” or “Why in the world would he have a mint collection of Ron Popiel’s As Seen On TV products?? What a tool!”
Once I think about it, I also recognize that there is something sad about the way I have clung to material “stuff”, almost as proof of my existence and perceived self-importance. Like in Planet of The Apes, I dont want some future civilization digging into the sediment layers of my by then completely demolished home only to find superfluous objects like a broken battery powered book light with its patented velcro clip or a shredded scrap of my leopard skin Snuggie. Maybe that’s why I have so many more books then I could ever read in a lifetime, including ones I dont really understand like Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce and The New Physics and Cosmology. I want people to think I am an intellectual, not a foolish consumer. I dont want some Harvard based archeology team in the distant future to only find my Ronco Pocket Fisherman and Baconator, still in their boxes with their lifetime guarantees. Finally, I believe some of us hang onto “things” as subconscious symbols of ones guilt and shame about not knowing better when one was young and far more stupid. It’s not always easy to forgive oneself and break free of our many past mistakes. Like Robert DiNiro in the 1986 film The Mission, we shlep our material things behind us as necessary reminders of our youthful indiscretions, relationship failures and even memories of what once was, a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away. Like the war weary Conquistador that DiNiro played so well, we must eventually let go of our baggage and our protective armor. Obviously letting go of stuff is not easy, but letting go of emotional baggage may be essential to moving on and living life fully today and tomorrow. So instead of asking, “What’s in your wallet?”, maybe we should be asking ourselves, “What’s in that big invisible bag I drag behind me?”