One of my little sisters is 21-years-old and like many young adults, she’s kind of messy and not inclined to clean. Because of that, she’s now in a position where she’s talking about moving out of her house because it sounds easier to pack up and move than to work on fixing up the space she’s in now and working on the mess she’s created for herself.
My mom was discussing this with me the other day when I realized that there’s something kind of unsettling in my sister’s pseudo predicament. Namely, it shouldn’t be easier to pack up and move on than to fix a totally reparable situation.
This isn’t a problem from which my sister exclusively suffers.
She and in fact most of us have grown up in a culture that had us taking elementary school field trips to environmental centers while simultaneously packing Lunchables and juice boxes and all manners of non-reusable, disposable garbage. We were taught the importance of appreciating and using and respecting what we have, but living in a disposable culture.
Our culture is full of intentional impermanence. We’ve got cars made out of plastic, cell phone plans designed to encourage us to consume new phones more frequently, which is totally frivolous, and everything that can’t be upgraded can at least be replaced—100% satisfaction guaranteed or your money back.
My fear is that beyond the environmental impacts of living in a disposable culture, it has come to affect many of us psychosocially. And my sister’s situation is but one example.
There seem to be a lot of generation X and Y-ers especially who don’t know how to put time and effort into something, who don’t have the patience to learn and grow and work, and who would rather throw up their hands and put the money and time into something new than stay loyal to and work on what they already have.
But what I’m especially worried about is that the trend of disposability has bled over into our relationships. I’m concerned that this could be a big part of why we’re putting our elders in nursing homes instead of taking care of them and why our relationships all seem predestined to fail. Perhaps we’ve crossed the line from breaking dated social conventions to simply choosing not to communicate because it’s easier to dispose of each other.
There’s a Japanese form of art called kintsugi which involves taking broken pottery and fixing it with a sort of glue infused with precious metals, like gold and silver. The philosophy behind it is that the fractures and broken parts of a piece are an important part of its history—that’s why they’re repaired with gold, highlighting what many would see as flaws. “Broken” becomes a reversible state of being instead of an end of the line.
Some things can’t be fixed, and some relationships aren’t worth trying to salvage. But maybe we should try to be a little more aware of how our collective penchant for instant gratification and always having something “better” could be hurting us. Maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to get rid of the people and things without considering the possibility of repair.
There’s something to be said for putting time, effort and love into something or someone. Life isn’t too short for that. It’s too short to form nothing but disposable, meaningless connections for the duration.