Friday, December 31, 2010

Inventory Time

As this year draws to a close the time has come to conduct an inventory of my life and stuff. For my wife and I this year has been one of purging and paring not only possessions but also relationships and other parts of our lives that didn’t seem to fit or suit our sensibilities anymore.

Early in the year, we unloaded several electronic gadgets that had just been collecting dust and from there we proceeded to get rid of hundreds of books, pieces of furniture, my wife’s bicycle, assorted lawn equipment, extraneous clothing items, and sundry household paraphernalia.

Propelling us to action was the landing of a neighbor’s tree on the roof of our house, which resulted in our getting the house fixed and placed on the market. Once we embraced the thought of moving, the idea of a more mobile lifestyle motivated us to quit what wasn’t working and to get rid of the unnecessary possessions weighing us down literally and figuratively.

We have made exceptional progress but are not yet at the place where we can move on a whim. For example, as much as we’ve whittled down our media library, we still own about 500 books, 100 compact discs, 20 digital video discs, and miscellaneous other media, not to mention our fair share of related electronic gadgetry.

One of the added benefits of downsizing the detritus of life is processing what you possess and getting to the point where you need what you own and own what you need. After a year of winnowing our possessions, it feels good to possess our stuff rather than it possessing us.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Places to Spaces

According to respected technology guru Kevin Kelly, “The network economy shifts places to spaces.” As he further points out in his writing, while a place is bounded by the dimensions of height, width, depth, and time, “a space, unlike a place, is an electronically created environment.”

What that means is that technology assists us to connect with one another without regard to the limitations of time and place, which is an incredible gift if used properly. For example, while emails, texts, and instant messages can help keep people close, unless each party practices proper “netiquette,” all the technology is for naught.

A byproduct of moving from places to spaces is the movement from atoms to bits, in other words, from the tangible to the intangible. The upside of this for me is that digitizing my stuff, including books, music, photos, and videos, enables me to fulfill my dream of traveling lightly through life.

However, there is a downside also. Despite all the optimistic talk about “cloud computing” there is the possibility of “technological difficulty,” such as the time my complimentary click-and-build website vanished from the ether one day. While it can be argued that I got what I paid for, it was nonetheless an unwelcome reminder of technology’s shortcomings.

The bottom line of all this is that technology as a tool is one of the most revolutionary innovations ever devised by man, but it must be used wisely and with integrity if we are to reap its vast rewards and realize its promise of keeping us all in touch with each other, wherever we are.