Collecting Experiences; Not Possessions

Written from Sorrento, Italy; cover image by BramvdZPhotography

 

"Five!"
"Four!"
"Three!"

I can hear Micah shouting out the count down as I crane my neck and peer over the edge, my left hand anchoring me to a nearby tree.

"Two!"

My stomach drops... not sure where it is. In my left calf maybe.

"One!"

My left hand releases its grip and I can feel my legs exploding beneath me, propelling me out and up into empty space. At first my limbs are flailing wildly as if something will appear out of nowhere to stop my fall. After a split second, however, I embrace the euphoria, tighten my body into the "pencil" and find myself sliding into perfectly clear water. Everything goes silent. The frigged temperatures bite at my skin and I thrash around for a few seconds just to acclimate myself. Then I open my eyes and see nothing but a clear, sapphire blue around me. Bobbing up to the surface, I gasp, drawing in oxygen before releasing a thrilled shout.

We had just cliff jumped into the Fairy Pools of Scotland. The entire-day tour that took us there cost us only around thirty Euro but its worth far surpassed that.

--

Driven by inspiration from Joshua Becker at "Becoming Minimalist" and Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus at "The Minimalists", I began to realize how much stock was put into material possessions but how little value we actually derive from them. Sure, we have to have some things to live comfortably and some things we have simply as a convenience - I'm not advocating poverty - but the psychological state of mind that drives us to collect things (materialism) at the cost of living is becoming more rampant.

What if, instead of collecting things, we collected experiences?

I don't want you to get the idea that these experiences could fulfill us any more than possessions - faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to live a life at rest and truly fulfilled. But experiences have a way of constructing our person - our mind - more so than possessions.

STORY

When we tell stories, we tell experiences. Not possessions. Even when we speak of particular thing that we have - perhaps is truly special to us - we tell of its unique story. What extravagant means were we forced to take to finally acquire this object? Who did this item used to belong to? What significance did it hold in the past? Why is it special to you? These are all questions that we use to facilitate the story that we tell surrounding this object. Let's face it - no one wants to hear a story about how you drove to the mall, asked a store clerk where the coffee pots were, bought one and brought it home. We want to hear about the car chase that you passed on the way to the mall. Or the cute store clerk that you flirted with. Or how they didn't have the model you wanted so they gave you a better coffee pot for the lower price. We want to hear the experience.

MEMORY

When we look back on our lives, what we will remember are the crazy things we did, the times we worked harder to make a day stand out. [...] Good stories contain memorable scenes.
— Donald Miller, "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years" (pages 208-209)

Memories are a complex thing. We have this strange ability to recall a situation as we experienced it. All of our feelings, biases, thoughts, sights, smells, sounds - they all come rushing back. I have been comforted by memories, been brought to tears by memories, been psyched out of my mind by memories and motivated by memories because memories are me. They are the mental visual display of the experiences that have defined, shaped and constructed who we are.

CHARACTER

The more unique and more involved these experiences become, we begin to see its effects on who we are as a person. Great experiences tend to teach us something about the world or ourselves that we were previously blinded to. In this way, our character is built. Layer by layer, experience by experience, we become increasingly more knowledgeable and wise. However, here's the catch: we have to look for the truth in such experiences, for to participate with our mental eyes closed is to miss out on the truths of life.

GRATITUDE

Experiences also tend to teach us about gratitude. Being thankful for the moments that we are blessed to live. Appreciation for the people who we live it with. And a gratefulness for the lessons that we learn along the way. This trip has been an incredibly beautiful experience; along the way, we have ran into our fair share of difficulties as well. And in those instances, I have had more of who I am uncovered and shaved away. I am learning of my resilience, the power of optimism and confidence, the gift of asking (maybe another blog post on this later) and the vastness of the world.

PERSPECTIVE

As I learn these new truths about myself and the world I live in, it is slowly shaping my perspective. I understand how different cultures approach a certain concepts. Now, their approach, together with my own, allows me to form a more well-rounded opinion of the concept to which I previously held a limited view of. Sometimes my original view is strengthened; now I know why I believe the way I did about it. Sometimes it is altered to accommodate a newly revealed truth. Constantly, with each new experience, I am changing, being chipped away at and re-polished.