Pack Rats and Control Freaks

Jennifer Bennett in the “On Earth” chapter of Our Gardens Our Selves

Despite my calling this place mine, I had come to realize that I was a visitor. I had only a temporary influence upon a place with its own secret agenda.

It sounds like an apt description of my desk and study where stacks of books and papers are the most common mode of information storage and retrieval — all saved up for sorting. Like the plantings in a garden, sometimes parts of the ordered mess gets moved about and yield surprising and inspiring combinations.

They say that sorting and clearing is about letting go. Perhaps more precisely it is about blocking curiosity and the urge to explore more. In a sense it is about being a good visitor — exerting temporary influence. “Letting go” seems a bit too permanent. The task of sorting and clearing is better served by a notion of trust (which some people think that “letting go” is all about). The good visitor trusts that what is needed will be at hand when needed. The good visitor stops to observe. The life of a good pack rat is also composed of stops.

This is not a laissez faire attitude. It is about enabling the joyous juxtapositions that continue to marvel one. The pack rat is disposed to depositing and observing the effect.

I am reminded of Virginia Woolf’s biography of Roger Fry. I like how Woolf quietly related his influence as a critic to a certain humility without naming it as such. A theme that emerges is a return to seeing the picture: there is no end to explaining or of testing one’s observations for the approach is very scientific. Likewise there is no end to being a pack rat and the testing of combinations and posing for a moment as a visitor to assess the effect.

And so for day 445

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