My wife and I moved into the house in which we now live in November 2000. We brought with us cardboard boxes full of the evidence of our past lives and stored most of that in our basement.
The theory, I think, was that eventually we'd find time to sort through it and make a judgment about what might be worth passing along to our children and/or grandchildren.
Some of those boxes had been unopened since shortly after I moved to Kansas City in 1970 from Rochester, N.Y., and included a rather crowdy stack of newspaper clippings of stories and columns I had written for the now-defunct Times-Union, Rochester's afternoon newspaper for which I worked a bit over three years before coming to The Kansas City Star.
In the last few weeks, I finally found time to do an initial dig through many of those boxes and, as you can see from the photo above showing a corner of our garage, assign much of what I found to be offered this very day to our weekly recycling truck.
The whole experience has raised for me once again the eternal question about what is of ultimate value in life and what is just decoration or distraction. Most of what I had saved -- some of it for nearly 50 years -- has been, it turns out, decoration and/or distraction. Who, after all, might now or ever have any reason to want to read every word I've ever written in a daily column I wrote for some 27 years? Oh, one or two small samples to show my kids or grandkids might be fine, but not box after box after box of this stuff.
Oh, OK, if I were to be installed tomorrow as the next president of the United States (hey, you could do worse -- and may have), historians might have some interest one day in combing through the written evidence of my life, looking for, well, something that might explain how I conducted myself as an adult and even as a child.
But someone else, not I, will be inaugurated tomorrow, and it's long past time to acknowledge that the memories we accumulate as newspaper clippings, as photos, as receipts, bills, bank statements, awards and arrest warrants (I actually never had any of those) are of precious little interest to anyone outside of our immediate family -- and even most of those people have no need for most of what we save. (Well, what I have saved. God knows what you have saved.)
Scripture suggests to us in many ways that we should live in the moment, not the past or the future: "Stop worrying about tomorrow," Jesus says in Matthew 6:34. And Psalm 103:15-16 says this: "The days of a human life are like grass: they bloom like a wildflower; but when the wind blows through it, it's gone; even the ground where it stood doesn't remember it."
All true. And yet, however briefly, I found it oddly satisfying to find evidence that I have spent my life trying to help people understand the world around us -- or at least trying, in public, to help myself understand it.
And if you want to rescue any of the clips of all those old columns and stories, better get by my curb before noon or so today.
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THIS MAY COMPLICATE YOUR THINKING
So the day before we inaugurate a new president and just before women march on Washington seems a good time for a bit of satire. You'll find it here. It even makes a bit of fun of journalists, if you can imagine such a terrible thing.