Have you ever thought about houses? Really thought about the box that you’re living in, residing in, eating, sleeping, and breathing in? The place that you call home, the place where you primarily exist? It flabbergasts me, really; how human beings put so much store in the place that they live, the place that they pay millions of dollars for. Don’t get me wrong- when I get older and I get the funds, I won’t hesitate to build a house and fill it with things. Depending on my expendable income, those things will be nice and luxurious. But at the end of the day (or, rather, the end of a lifetime), all that a house is is a box that is filled with stuff. Things that have been collected, things that define who you are; but they hold no more significance to the world, to the box they sit in, to the history they momentarily fill, than any other insignificant object.
I drive past the storage unit retailers all of the time and laugh at the ludicrous advertisements they hold: promising climate controlled space, unlimited warranty, security, and any other amenity that will make you choose their ten by ten cubicle over the ten by ten cubicle being advertised just across the street. But in all honesty, there is no difference in that cubicle than your house- except perhaps that it is smaller, and except perhaps that it holds stuff that doesn’t hold enough personal value to you that you keep it in the storage unit you live in.
That’s all your house is, is a storage unit that you happen to like and happen to collect the baggage of your life in. When you die it will be stuck in another storage unit, perhaps climate controlled, fifty dollars a day, because the inheritor cares more about their baggage than yours. Or maybe it will be sold at a garage sale, or a yard sale, or donated to Goodwill- the ultimate storage unit for unclaimed baggage and unwanted detritus of life.
I wrote this the other day.
“The little grey mouse scuttles silently into his mousehole
Nestled in the nook of the wall
That supports one fourth of the cardboard box
That houses the family that lives
On the Earth-sphere that encircles the sun
That floats, one star among many, in the stardust
That forms the Milky Way, one galaxy
Silent, solitary, sleeping, alone and not alone
In the universe that eliminates any sense of scale
To which we anchor ourselves
The galaxy, the sun, the earth, and the house are smaller than small
And the mouse is diminished to insignificance raised to the negative power
(the family only one degree less)
As he scuttles silently
Into the home,
and the life,
he thinks is fit for a king.”
And while it isn’t entirely eloquent, it portrays what I want to say. You’re small. Your life is small. Your meaning is insignificant. You exist to die and you die because you existed. You live in a cardboard box and store the things you define yourself by in that box and you attach to it a meaning that will diminish the moment that you breathe your last breath. People feel bad for those that are homeless and live in actual cardboard boxes, or those that lived in Hoovervilles and tent cities and alleyways. But maybe they just had the shorter end of a stick we all hold. All in all, those of us that live in multi-million dollar homes are no different than the homeless guy whose home is a box with the words This End Up emblazoned upon his front door. The only difference is the quality and size of the building materials.
The meaning is the same.