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The Spatula: Possessions Ultimately Dispossess

Katie’s door is unlocked, but the place is empty. The sink is full of sleeping grimy dishes. The floor is an archipelago of dirty clothes, quilts, and art supplies.

There’s a spatula poking out between couch cushions. I liberate it with one swift tug, recalling Excalibur, and notice it is clean. How a clean spatula got from kitchen to couch I will never know. I hold it up to the light. One corner has melted flat from careless usage, a grotesque plastic tumor, a hunchback, a spot of leprosy. I feel its self-conscious gaze.

Oh spatula, you are devastated and deformed, but still as useful as ever. Shall I aspire to impart unto you the secrets of space and time?

So I explain to the spatula that of all the things Katie and I share, the deepest connection is this: we both make a point of trusting the Universe to take care of us. I can’t count how many times money has arrived out of the blue precisely when it was needed, or how often food seemed to barrel down the street in search of some hunger to fill.

“There’s magic ripe for the grabbin’,” I say. “It’s in the air and it’s attracted to motion.” Somehow this cosmic medicine prefers a moving target. “It’s a Jesus lifestyle, spatula. The son of man has no place to lay his head. He was a nomad who thought people should live in the moment. I’ve met more Atheists on the road living like the man and not even realizing it; and more Christians who’ve devoted their lives to securing a luxurious place to lay their heads. They live by balance-books, nine-to-fives, and holiday vacations, trapped in schedules and budgets while they sport their WWJD bracelets. But Jesus said not to worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will take care of itself.

“Don’t bury your head in the future, spatula!” I shout, “Don’t fret about heaven and eternal salvation—for eternity is here and salvation is now, not in some abstract tomorrow waiting a ways off down the line.

“Faith does not save you; faith is salvation. Love does not get us into heaven; love is heaven. To love and hope and believe is to enter immediately through the gates. Don’t confuse the country for the passport, spatula. Don’t mistake the map for the territory. Heaven runs parallel to all premeditated paths. Go one step out of your way to help a stranger and you’re there. You’ve transcended time and space and self. What sort of nebulous eternal realm can compete with that?”

The spatula does not reply. It must be thinking the question over very carefully.

“Okay, spatula, forget the spiritual side. Just look at it from a practical point of view. An empty wallet is not that bad. Being broke is actually pretty good these days. Most Americans are in debt, and compared to a big fat debt zero is a pretty big number. People end up in debt out of fear that they will one day have nothing. But having nothing is so damned cheap. The more you have, the less you’re open to receive. Possessions ultimately dispossess. Bound and saddled you can no longer move fluidly through a fluid world.”

Spatula and I circle the room, blessing objects with a light touch from his gnarled melty corner. I’ve lined them all up on the couch: dolls, toys, journals, plates, records, stamps, toothpaste, a bottle of witch hazel, a ball of string. Spatula understands now. He has seen the light, and together we propound our holy sermon. “The people of earth never were cut out for this sedentary lifestyle. Millions of years of evolution, fine tuning these beautiful nomadic legs, and in less than two hundred years we’ve folded them up and put them away under our laptops. We weren’t meant to sit in chairs and hide in holes. The wanderer’s legacy is too strong, too deeply rooted in the DNA, and it will roam whether we like it or not, if not physically then psychologically. If we don’t move our legs, that spirit will smoke and spin and whirl like a clutched axle. The dislodged gears burning up and burning out!”

Life is governed by the hours, and the hours are governed by the sun. I try to look outward with longing eyes, so that everything I see becomes vast potentiality. If I am the sum of my experiences, then I am also the clouds, the mountains, the television, the stars.

What’s the alternative? Settle down? Cook breakfast? Sleep under the stars? Find a woman. Build a cabin. Grow old. Die. I could spend the rest of my life looking for that perfect view overlooking some ideal patch of grass on which to settle in and sink slowly beneath the weeds. The rush of the wind, a gentle rain. These icons of what it means to have been alive in a world. Surrounded by the trinkets of our past, the towers of unopened boxes packed tight with so many memorable days never again brought to mind. Then at last, tucked-in best as can be, to etch that moment onto a gravestone and experience nothing more forever.

“The Spatula” is an excerpt from Smashing Laptops. Josh Wagner is the author of six books. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.