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A Case Against Deerfield Materialism: Plea From a Day Student in Limbo
nick whittredge 10 contributing writer
April 22, 2009

As a student who commutes daily between school and one of two separate households, and who has to keep track of three musical instruments, schoolbooks, and sports equipment, I am a student in limbo, burdened by the physical world.

My experience with physical things of all types––CDs, books, running shoes, videogames, clothing, backpacks, instruments, cell phones––is one of inconvenience and anxiety. Not that it is all bad, but I often find myself worrying about my possessions and whether I have everything that I need. While some of these things can be a source of pleasure for us, and indeed may be necessary in our lives, most of them are not and can only serve to bother us. We are distracted by them: worrying that they might break or be stolen, or spending time and energy in their protection. The use of door locks would be unnecessary without belongings to worry about. Our possessions can disrupt our peace of mind and hinder our aspirations.

We heard this fall that along with sayings like “Look to the hills,” Frank Boyden often spoke of the virtue of mobility. Both mental mobility, the ability to adapt to new situations and think clearly, and physical mobility, the ability to explore and move about the world, are inhibited by the objects which surround our lives.

This doesn’t seem to discourage us at Deerfield. The majority of our dorm rooms are filled to their capacity with personal possessions.

But this material indulgence is short-sighted; within the next few years, most students will attend a college or university in which the majority of the rooms are shared. Living with a roommate tests one’s ability to organize their belongings, and in this case “less” is almost always “more”.

I expect many Deerfield graduates will travel abroad during or after higher education, and they will find that the things they have accumulated over the years no longer fit their lifestyle. What would I do with my multi-colored plaid shorts in London? Would my collection of 27 Vineyard Vines ties be fashionable in Montreal? What about Nairobi?

This is a trend: most things we buy we enjoy for only the first few weeks of our possession of them, and then they become obsolete. When that time comes around we regret their presence in our lives and try to cast them away.

If the future of our alumni is such, then why don’t we get ahead of the game and start trimming down our collection of useless things? Try what I’ve done: ask yourself, do you own those things, or do they own you? Will you use those things or will you worry about them? Use this questioning before you buy things and you could save a lot of money. This process has produced great results for me, and in hindsight I’m glad that I didn’t buy those stocks in AIG.

I’m certain that with all of the responsibilities and worries we students have already, your life could be a little simpler. By ridding yourself of material objects you will live your life more freely and happily. The Dalai Lama said recently that if one is to be sane, “he won’t let himself be overwhelmed by the lure of technology and by the madness of possession.”