Jussi Ahola

Curious humanist

Fighting plenitude

Stuff demands more stuff. A bed demands sheets, a pencil demands paper, and a CD demands a player.

Every object that you own creates a need to own additional objects to compliment the original object. This phenomenon has been termed as the plenitude. A bed without sheets or a pencil without paper aren’t much fun.

Suppose you decide to get a brand new 12-piece spoon set. That purchase might necessitate a matching 12-piece fork set and matching 12-piece knife set. And those plates in the kitchen cabinet definitely don’t go that nicely with the new cutlery, so you have to get new ones. Oh, and what about the tablecloth, salt and pepper shakers, candleholders, and the flower vase? What the heck, you might just as well get a new dining room table (and matching chairs, of course).

In most cases the decision to purchase a piece of stuff isn’t a decision on only that single thing, but on an entire plenitude around that thing. The decision to get a new gadget is also a decision to get a protective case, charger, and a number of matching cables for connectivity. The decision to buy a new car is also a decision to buy a set of accessories, tyres, insurance (which, interestingly, is something intangible, yet still part of the plenitude), and possibly a garage.

The plenitude doesn’t grow linearly, but exponentially. As a result many of us live amidst a plenitude of crap that takes up space, time, and attention in our lives.

Luckily, the nature of the plenitude that makes it grow explosively can also be used as a weapon to fight against it. Once you get rid of a car, you can also get rid of the accessories, tyres, insurance, and garage. Once you dispose of an old gadget, you can happily also do away with its protective case, charger, and cables. For every spoon in the 12-piece set you can also get rid of a number of other things.

What are left after the plenitude are space, time, and attention.

After the plenitude you can breathe.