April 27th, 2019
We drove along some twisting, winding roads through the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas. There was farm land in the narrow valleys, but we also saw deep forests covering the steep hillsides. The scenery was beautiful, for the most part.
Small houses and trailers peeked through the trees. Some of the homes were neat and tidy. Other houses were in various states of disrepair. A few of them were literally collapsing. Many of them were surrounded by piles of junk. I found that to be both curious and disturbing.
As we drove by these homes, I could see abandoned cars and trucks, broken swing sets, stacks of rotting lumber, rusting bicycles, and other things that had somehow become useless to their owners. I’ve seen scenes like this before; on the marijuana farms in the hills of Oregon, in the backwoods of Appalachia, on the reservations in Montana, on the farms only a few miles from our home in Wisconsin. The images are always the same. Things are left exactly where they stopped working, or where they fell to the ground. A screwdriver lies in the dirt. A truck sits in the yard, never to move again. Kids’ toys lie on the ground, faded by the sun and half-hidden by the weeds.
It’s the dark side of consumerism. These people in the woods are most likely poor. They don’t have more junk than anyone else. They just can’t afford to hide it. They can’t haul the stuff away, or put into storage.
We have a big enough house to store all of our crap. Our home is a living example of the Second Law of Thermodynamics: entropy (disorder) always increases. Our house is full of things that are held in an environment of barely controlled chaos. We have all sorts of things that we no longer use, or no longer work. We hang on to possessions out of sentiment or laziness. Clutter increases. We consider throwing things out, but we never actually do it.
If the folks in Arkansas cleared out the stuff on their property, would it really help? If we threw our things away, would it help? All this debris would just wind up in a landfill somewhere. It wouldn’t disappear. It would become somebody else’s problem.
I don’t want to buy any more stuff.