Just in Case

justincaseI’m not a hoarder . . . any more.

There was a time when I would wander through Kmart or Target and find something that attracted my attention. I didn’t need it, but I bought it anyhow. Just in case.

I had cupboards full of things and felt quite satisfied with myself that I had anything anyone could need for any given situation. I kept everything, just in case.

I had clothes I no longer fit into. I was hoping one day I would. They cluttered up my wardrobe because I may lose weight one day. Just in case.

I was a sucker for sales staff. I bought insurance policies for this that and the other because one never knew what might happen. I got an expensive monitored security system installed. I had to be prepared for every possible disaster. Just in case.

Filing cabinets full of ancient documents.

Boxes in the shed full of books, crockery, knick-knacks.

That huge drawer filled with every cable you could or may (or may not) ever need.

Every piece of music I ever played, sang, and lots that I filed away . . . just in case.

Just in case weighed me down.

There came a point in my life when I was reviewing my insurance needs and I realised I was paying money to protect myself against the loss of stuff I didn’t need, that was cluttering my life. I was buying a policy just in case I lost a lot of junk that I had accumulated in my house just in case.

I know the Boy Scout motto is ‘Be prepared.’ But prepared is a subjective word. There is no way I can be prepared for everything that happens in my life. Just trying to do this causes so much worry, fear, anxiety and nervousness.

In a rather famous sermon, a wise preacher once asked his congregation:

Why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?

His advice has the power to change not only the way we look at stuff, but our attitude towards life itself.

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Read full text here.)

Fear of loss breeds anxiety. Fear of things not being just the way you would like brings worry. The root cause of all this is a lack of trust (faith) in a loving God / Presence / Universe / Force that looks on Creation with compassion.

So what happens if our house burns down? We are still loved. In the words of another group of wise preachers: “All you need is love . . . love is all you need.”

What happens if thieves break in and take our treasured possessions? We still have our lives, our memories, our family and friends.

To store up stuff just in case is to prepare for the worst. It is quite a negative approach to life. Rather, living in a simple acceptance of what is, and trust that we will always be cared for by our all-loving God is enough to see us through anything we face in life.

I think it’s time for another cleanout.

FOMO

I was listening to Triple J on the drive home last night and Liam Finn (nephew of Neil Finn of Crowded House fame) was a guest on the show. He was introducing his latest album, FOMO, which, he said, was filled with songs written from a perspective of his own life and the pressure he felt when returning to New Zealand from his busy concert and recording period abroad.

He found that, while being away from the high-tech, high-speed life of the big city was good for him in a recharge/refresh sense, he would go to bed and sleep would escape him because he had become so accustomed  to doing things, going places, and seeing people every day. He had become fearful of missing out on life . Hence the title of his album is an acronym for “Fear of Missing Out.”

I wonder if that is the reason why this generation has taken to social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr.  Afraid we might miss out on something, we have tied ourselves to checking our mobile phones or computer screens all too frequently to see what our friends (or twiends!) are up to, who they’re with, where they are, and what they’re feeling. Then we must update our status to let them know the same about us. When we’re not “connected” we feel like we’re missing out in some way on what’s happening in our world.

Many people do this in other ways: being engrossed in hearing or reading the latest news from CNN, NineMSN or NewsRadio. Some feel compelled to keep track of sport or weather. Media outlets dedicated to keeping the public informed  rely on this for their livelihood every day. Maybe a story will break and I won’t know because I didn’t subscribe to the right RSS feed, turned off the TV or radio, or check in on the website that has all the latest details and video footage. . . .

How much does FOMO keep you and I from enjoying—genuinely relishing—the present moment? Does this FOMO make us jealous? Anxious? Envious of someone else’s lot in life at the moment? When we update our status, are we unconsciously attempting to paint our life so our friends will think they’re missing out on something?

Last night I made a decision to take a leave-of-absence from Facebook for a while. Those who know me know that I am a frequent user and, often, it may seem that I’m addicted. So I thought I’d see what happens if I make a break for a time. Some things may still appear on my Facebook status (like these blog post links and places I visit/like on the web), but I won’t be checking my messages, updating my status, or looking at anyone else’s status or pages for a while. I’m not sure how long this experiment will last—it may well result in my leaving the social media altogether. Regardless, I’m hoping it will bring some much-needed perspective and help me to spend time on areas of my life where right now I can see I’m missing out.

I’m not saying this is something we all should embrace, but for me I need to cast out the demon of FOMO and live in the moment, every moment.

Liam Finn mentioned on his interview that, while he got over this fear of missing out, this episode in his life brought the present into focus in a more real and meaningful way. To some extent, I think that’s something we all need.