Post-Camino Frances Reflections – Week 8.
One of the books I bought recently is Stuffocation. The title called out to me as I was in the process of de-cluttering my life. (Still am.) It’s the first printed book I have bought in a long time. All other books have tended to be digital – unless print was the only optimal reading experience. I don’t know why I bought a printed book. I felt like it. I wanted to support the dying trade of the bookstore, and I wanted to go non-digital. There is something about feeling the pages of a book in your hand, flicking each page, turning the book right back so that you get a crease along the spine of the book, dog eared pages. There’s something truly tactile that I wanted to get back to. Maybe it was the back cover blurb that attracted me – Freakonomics meets The Tipping Point. I liked both books – well I like Freakonomics and Malcolm Gladwell. Who knows? Maybe it was time to deepen my interest. Maybe it was just time.
It seems, with this book, I am not alone in wanting to simplify my life. Now you must forgive me – I tend to think I am the only one in the world thinking or doing things differently. (It can be a very lonely existence.) The reason I think so is I tend not to meet many who are exploring the same philosophies. (Is it a philosophy? All I am looking for is to simplify my life and get rid of the things I no longer need.)
It seems there is more to this than that. This isn’t a book review by any sense of the imagination. But I will say this, it does pull together a series of movements/desires in simplification and makes a case for the movement towards experientialism. Now this is interesting, since I have been trying to live an experimentalist existence for some time. But it is hard to be an experientialist when one is hardwired to be a materialist. It explains some things about the struggles and the conflicts. It is hard to be different. But here, the author posits that we on the crest of a new movement towards experientialism – at least in the Western democracies. The new middle classes in India and China will continue to consume materialist goods until such time as the stress of owning all these possessions take over.
Being called a materialist is such a loaded word. It gets backs up. It conjures up images of shallow, ambitious, self-centred people. Most people do not see themselves that way and so denial is strong. But in the book, materialism is about whether it achieves increased status. This can be both physical or experience. But another way – is it the journey or the destination? Experiences can be materialist, or it can be experiential. Confused?
For those of us who have walked the camino, I think we recognise this sentiment. Were you a walker for the challenge, or a walker for the experience? As a slow walker, I know I’ve met the 40km a day walker who aims to get to the next town regardless, whereas I was the slow meandering walker stopping at every fab albergue I could find or taking pictures along the way and resting my swollen and blistered feet. Both are experiences but intent is key. I know I met many walking super fast only to get to their destinations and fall asleep for the rest of the day. The camino is great as a bucket list item, but surely it is worth more than a tick in a box?
The stress of possessions – finding the resources to buy it in an effort of satisfying the happiness equation and the space to store something that has eventually been taken over by yet something else. Actually, it is stressful. It’s not like unbearable stress. But it does simmer in the background. Like that unpainted patch of wall you know you should spend some DIY time on, but isn’t super urgent and so gets left week after week.
So what does this mean? Probably more people walking on the camino. An immersive holiday experience like this cannot but be experiential. Was this what prompted my decision to walk the camino? To experience experience? In hindsight, I probably think it was. To experience something completely new, different from what I had done before, learn, … experience. For me, the book is helping to pull some threads together – putting words around lots of nebulous concepts, desires and feelings.
My Mac keeps wanting to auto-correct experientialism into experimentalism. For the moment, it would be correct to say experiment with experientialism. Tell me what it’s been like for you. If nothing, it’s for me to know that I am not alone in the world in my struggles to decide whether I keep my good but terribly pointed heels from the noughties.
And if you’d like a copy of my book after Hubs is done reading it, let me know. It’d be my pleasure to send a gift, and know it is welcomed – and recycled. Seems odd to send things through the post in this day and age of digital. But the way I see it, it is not the words of the book that is the gift (for you can get the words of the book yourself). It is the experience of giving and receiving – with no expectation other than the simple joy and pleasure of the experience. And that is such a rarity in this day and age.