No junk for old men, The Local Void
I carry an understanding that we all have a choice between two paths in life. I call one the safe zone and the other the Local Void. The safe-zone is the path guarded by security, predictability, and comfort. The other, is one guided by necessity, adaptation and unpredictability. I would call this path the local-void, inspired by a vast, empty region of space, lying adjacent to the Local Group. Discovered by Brent Tully and Rick Fisher in 1987, the Local Void is now known to be composed of three separate sectors, separated by bridges of "wispy filaments". The Local Void also appears to have significantly fewer galaxies than expected from standard cosmology. This to me is the perfect metaphor because a person who's life is directed outside of the status quo and doesn't settle into a city or permanent residence, basically operates their life within a blank space like the Local Void, which means that there's room for new experiences everyday which are unrestricted by obligations.
Voids are the result of the way gravity causes matter in the universe to "clump together", herding galaxies into clusters and chains, which are separated by regions mostly devoid of galaxies. The analogy that I use for the purpose of this post, is that those in the Safe-zone represent those galaxies, and the space outside of them is left for those in the Local Void to explore. The trade-off for existing in The Local Void is that while you will embark on new experiences and challenges everyday, the alienation felt in the Local void might leave you with traces of loneliness and despair. I have always held a deep rooted admiration for those who live their lives in the Local Void, but bringing myself to that commitment has always had it's constraints before I could even begin. After all, what would do about my family, friends, income, and my possessions which to those who have found salvation in the Local Void would consider 'junk'.
I was inspired to share this story of a customer I visited during a routine Junk Removal service and to my surprise, this typical routine had transpired into much more than a routine pickup. This client opened up my mind to the realization that holding fewer possessions could bear someone more opportunities. Aside from being constrained by the constant need to move your things as you relocate, you can't take any of these possessions with you to your grave, which means that they might be be nothing more to you than badges of justification for your vacancy in the safe-zone.
It was a warm Tuesday and brighter than others. I had just finished recycling a large container of household appliances and electronics at the local bottle depot when I picked up the phone, I was greeted by the voice of an elderly man with a North American washed British accent. 'This is Mr. Junk Removal how may I help you?' I asked with my automated response. 'My name is - (lets call him Peter), My name is Peter and I have an appointment with you today at 11 am'. Somewhat confused, I shuffled through my weekly schedule with a puzzled look on my face. I had found his appointment, but I noticed he had been scheduled for the coming Thursday. I corrected his mistake, 'it says here you are scheduled for that time but on this coming Thursday.' His answer was not what I expected, 'Well I need you guys here now, the whole world is waiting for me out there.' Feeling dumbfounded by his response, I honored our companies commitment to convenience and agreed to meet him at a later time that day, once I had made some room between other appointments.
We entered his apartment complex guided by a beautifully maintained, tulip decorated garden which graciously directed us to the loading zone, pointed out by a large, beautiful stone bowl fountain. We parked the truck and I picked out a small screw driver from my toolbox while my co-worker took our dolly. As we approached the entrance, I took notice of the reception desk occupied by two well kept ladies wearing white collared shirts and red bow ties; colors which resembled the tulips decorating the outside of the building. At that moment I realized that I was in a retirement home, a fancy one. I approached the desk and was greeted by a routine smile and list of building specific rules for service companies, until finally being directed to Peter's room on the 4th floor.
The door had been propped open by a man's medium grey, formal plaid jacket which hung loosely to the doorknob. Before my knuckles had the chance to meet the door we were invited in by an expressive call, "Come in, let's get on with it shall we". On the inside stood Peter, planted on a small night stand appearing to be removing a light fixture with nothing more than a butter knife; while uncomfortably suffocated inside the rest of his plaid-grey suit. With his sleeves rolled up, he seemed to be prepared to referee a boxing match. Peter was a tall but abnormally slim elderly man, with light grey combed hair and a sly smile. His sharp, light eyes made me think he was up to something clever every time he would blink. 'please, let me get that for you'. I insisted while displaying the screw driver I had carried with me.
We carried on with our work as expected, removing the headboard which was mounted to the wall and anchored the rest of the bed he had hired us to remove. Once the items were loaded in the truck and the doors closed, we went back to confirm that everything had been completed to Peter's satisfaction. As we approached the door for what we thought was the last time, we were bewildered to find the customer's lobby decorated like a one bedroom apartment. Shortly after, we discovered Peter standing behind the mess burrowing through his pockets with excitement. 'Ah hah!' He announced, while unearthing a nickel as if it were a multi-million dollar lottery ticket. With a puzzled look on our faces we awaited his explanation, 'This will have to do. I'm going to toss this coin and if it lands on heads, I will have no choice but to ask you to get rid of it all'.
The modus operandi Peter had suggested at that time; to leave the fate his entire life possessions in the hand of a coin toss, reminded me of the character Anton Chigurh in the movie No Country For Old Men. Peter wore a look on his face very much like the hitman in the movie, and Peter had just put a hit on his life possessions. Peter finally revealed the result of the coin toss which had already been made apparent to us by the excited look on his face. Between his thumb and index finger Peter held up the steel engraved portrait queen Elizabeth II like it were a piece of gold, propelling us back to work.
When the job was finally done I headed back to collect payment and my coworker insisted on following because he could not shake his confusion and interest. We re-entered the room to find Peter holding his wallet and seated on one of the last pieces of his possessions, a hard shell suitcase. I had the urge to get to the bottom of Peter's endeavor but before I had the chance Peter began, 'You two might think i'm crazy, but I reckon ive never felt healthier in my life with all these anchors gone'.
Peter explained to us that he had lived a happy life with his wife for 50 years, with whom he shared two grandchildren. At the age of 72 Peter had outlived his wife, and now 82 years old it had been almost 10 years since her passing but Peter still carried the the spirit of a young man with him. 'I don't belong here', he said, seeming slightly embarrassed. 'I have nothing against the people here they are very pleasant, but I just don't belong here'.
Peter explained to us that he had spent the last decade holding on to the past, clinging to the security of what he had left, remnants of the past; which had no longer served him any purpose, other than being nothing more than an anchor to his life. 'I'm like an hourglass, sitting and waiting for the last piece of sand to drop'. He said. 'What will you do now?' I asked with some concern, to which he responded: 'No more living in the safe-zone, I'm a free man now. Watch out ladies here I come!". He shouted humorously with a conspicuous look in his eyes.
We finally packed up our final things, wished him luck and drove off. While waiting in the truck at a nearby intersection I raised my head to find Peter holding his suitcase in my rear view mirror. He seemed to be walking in no particular direction, I assumed these were his firsts steps towards a new life in the 'local void'.