By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty. 

The substantial handful of keys for my new apartment presented me with a typical challenge for apartment-dwellers. The other night, I went up and down my three flights of stairs three times (front, then back, then front again) before solving the mystery: which key Imagefits which lock? I grew up without keys. I know that sounds improbable, like any number of lies older people tell younger people to illustrate the stunning difference between then and now, but it’s the truth. We didn’t lock our doors. It was my Mother’s house, and she always said, “We don’t have much that’s worth stealing.” The less we had, the less we had to worry about, she reasoned. Thus began my detachment from the accumulation of material wealth.

I’m not interested in expensive things. Recently, I was filling out a questionnaire that Imageinquired about products I’d purchased in the past few months. There was a question about purchasing gas, but thanks to the CTA, I donated my car 5 years ago. I don’t buy any games because I don’t have a video game console. Generally, I don’t buy (or illegally download) movies or songs because I subscribe to Netflix and listen to Pandora or old CD’s. In fact, the bulk of the movies and music I own are gifts; my friends know me well and are generous.

Even though I might like to have fancier things, I don’t confuse my desire with need. One of my favorite lines of poetry is “getting and spending we lay waste our powers,” a forceful reminder to use time and money more deliberately from William Wordsworth’s “The World is Too Much with Us.”  The life-choice to invest in people rather than things still requires constant effort in contemporary American society. A great article written in 1998 by Juliet B. Schor called “Keeping Up with the Gateses” addresses the need to resist the relentless upward skew of competitive consumption. In response to the social pressures to consume at a rate that far surpasses income, Schor wrote about people who strive to create a life Imagethat is abundant in experiences and relationships, rather than possessions, a trend I am proud to be a part of, and one that has grown in the past 15 years, including down-shifting  and the slow movement. Every day I try to concentrate my energy on things that are truly worth my time and attention.

And, as much as we all want to believe in keys and the safety and security they seem to promise, locked doors don’t always accomplish much. I know many people whose homes have been burgled while the doors remained firmly locked. When an intruder attempted to get in to my apartment this past February, he wrapped his elbow in a jacket and broke through the bedroom window. Happily, he didn’t bother entering once he realized someone was home because he certainly would have been disappointed by the lack of big-ticket items.

As for keys, I wear some as earrings, and I use the ones for my new apartment, too. But if I could, I would follow my mother’s example and leave my doors unlocked since the things I value can’t be stolen: the fullness of experience, the times spent with friends, the joy of family traditions. Still, I might worry (as she does on occasion) that the wind would blow the doors open, and rain would come inside.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s