I wish I could say that my many years of daily meditation led to an enlightenment experience that caused me to drastically simplify the office where I hang out in our house.
(By "hang out," I mean that this is the one room where I get to decide how it is furnished and decorated. Elsewhere, my wife calls the decor shots, mostly because she is better at this than I am.)
However, what actually happened is that last week we had three rooms painted by Apex Paint and Remodel, who did a great job.
One of those rooms was my office.
It had wallpaper dating from when we moved in some 30 years ago. For some reason we decided to replace kid-room wallpaper with adult-room wallpaper, rather than having my office painted, which in retrospect would have made more sense.
Anyway, I had to get everything out of my office -- kind of a strange term for a retired guy's room where he doesn't even keep his computer -- before the wallpaper removal and painting could begin.
Believe me, there was a lot of stuff to move. Including a lot of books.
Laurel, my wife, tells me that I love clutter. Actually that isn't true. It's more that I'm comfortable with clutter. I'll blame it on my mother, which is easier than blaming it on myself.
My divorced mother was even more of a bookaholic than I am. (She also was an alcoholic, but that's another story.) Piles of books were all over the house I grew up in.
Me, I just had piles of books in my office. The rest were in bookcases.
I was able to start moving stuff back into the office while the Apex Paint and Remodel guys were finishing up the other two rooms. On Friday I asked one of the crew to take a look at the office.
"Thanks for giving me this opportunity to start fresh," I told him. "I'm taking a Marie Kondo approach, only bringing things back to this room that give me joy, that make me feel happy. If you'd seen what it looked like before, you'd know what a big change has been made here."
Philosophically speaking, which is how I frequently like to talk, this empty room experience points to the benefit of emptying out now-and-then, whether this be a physical or mental turn toward an embrace of a form of nothingness.
When we start with a blankness, it's necessary to decide what it really needs to be filled with, and what is extraneous. With my office, I was able to choose between truly satisfying items and what had crept into the room through an unthinking "might as well put that here."
Here's photos of the result, taken today after pictures had been added back to the walls.
Most of our house has natural wood walls and ceilings. I like the wood, but having off-white paint in my office rather than wallpaper markedly changed the look and feel of the room, brightening it considerably, not surprisingly.
The panther had to stay. I sit in the chair during my morning reading/meditating time. The red fan is part of my collection of Tai Chi fans. I don't know how to use them very well, but I enjoy the resounding "clack" they make when opened and closed with a flick of the body.
The Apex guy I showed my office to also was a long-time martial artist. He admired the Japanese katana swords, so I explained how the one on top in the wooden scabbard was made by a skilled fellow student.
It took me quite a while to rearrange the books, which are my core "meaning of life" collection.
I gave Taoism the top left honor, with Buddhism taking the top right shelf. Lower down is philosophy and a variety of mystical/meditation books, including what remains of my Rumi books, which used to number in the dozens.
Atheism occupies another shelf, with neuroscience on the adjoining shelf. I humbly (yeah, right) put books I've written on the bottom shelf along with mindfulness books and more neuroscience titles.
To astound my wife, I left the bottom left shelf empty so my balance board could fit in there rather than leaning against the filing cabinet, where it had resided for several years.
I got this photograph at the Salem Art Fair from someone who took it in China. The artist told me that he encountered this man on a mountain that had a Taoist monastery, I think it was, at the top. I love the image of a old Chinese guy pleasantly walking along a decidedly scary path.
Beautiful reflection of how life should be lived. On the edge; hanging on to necessary support; smiling at the abyss that awaits us all at some point.
I vacillated on putting my black belt certificate back on a wall. Eventually I decided that since it means a lot to me, and I like the design of it (which generally doesn't include a reflection of me taking a photo of it), I should put the certificate up.
The style was a mixed form of karate of the Korean variety. My instructor was eclectic, having trained in numerous martial art styles, but his focus was on the Chun Kuk Do Korean-based, American hybrid style founded by Chuck Norris.
It feels good to inhabit an office cleared of clutter. My wife probably is wondering how long this will last. Well, I'm wondering also. I've already fought some temptations to put back some extraneous stuff.
So far I've won that fight. Time will tell if that continues.