September 11 and 100 ThingsSeptember 13, 2010 Leave a comment
I have a paradoxical relationship with September 11. Like most of us, I am affected by our shared experience on that terrible day nine years ago. Like many Latin Americans, I remember the US sponsored coup against the democratically elected Chilean government of Salvador Allende in1973. But in what is the most significant twist, it also happens to be the anniversary of the most important day in my spiritual life – the day I met my teacher – September 11, 2004, an event that has changed my life forever.
It is quite an experience to struggle with this paradox, but the juxtaposition serves to push me in really interesting ways. As I reflect on September 11, 2010, I have decided to engage in a bold experiment, an experiment that is both spiritual and political. The 100 Things Challenge is promising internet phenomenon through which people pledge to reduce the “stuff” in their lives to 100 things or less.
By engaging this challenge I will actively work on redefining my relationship to things, exploring the experience of attachment is always good spiritual practice. The above picture illustrates the sum total of Gandhi’s possessions at the time of his death. Mahatma Gandhi has always been a radiant example of spiritual and political leadership.
Reducing my things to 100 or less will be a political act. It is a powerful way of undermining the raging virus of consumerism and the way it has defined our culture. Honoring September 11 by taking on this challenge is a radically different answer than the one George W. Bush professed in the days after the attack – he said “go shopping,” I’m saying I’m going to get rid of my things.
I’m doing this my way, I will take my time with it but I intend to be done by September 11, 2011. I will start with my personal things (as opposed to those I share with my future wife), and I will leave books and spiritual items for last – but I’m excited already, I can already feel the power behind this choice. I’m doing this for my own development, but it is my hope to inspire others to do the same, to help to spread a new virus – a good one! A virus that will lead many more of us to evaluate our spiritual relationship to things even as we undermine the unsustainable consumerism that has come to define our culture today.
Love it Gibran! I did a practice maybe 10 years ago that Pema Chodron asked those of us in a class of hers to do – we spent a day looking at everything we own and saying, “I can give this away.” This was in part to explore our attachments – though it had a side benefit of actually putting it into practice. Wish I could say I were anywhere near 100 (not even close), but it is something I attend to so that I am passing on things I’m no longer using – a bicycle, an old cell phone, an old laptop, etc. And the biggest challenges for me are those with sentimental value – my grandfather’s shirt, my grandmother’s gardening tools, my mom’s paint brushes, my dad’s shirts, and so on. You’ve inspired me to do some paring again too – and re-examining where my attachments lie…
Tweeted this morning – “Simplicity is the greatest sophistication.” – Leonardo da Vinci