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backpack theory

2005-08-15 by

When I was in Jerusalem doing study abroad, my bank account stood at about $100. I really think that's where it was at. Total. No savings. Everything I had went towards financing the trip, and at least lunch was prepaid. I had enough leeway for an occasional bottle of juice, and that's about it. Then I noticed that most didn't have the same luxury as I did. That is, they had plenty of money, and plenty of things to spend it on. While they idled their time between olive wood sculpture custom designed to any occasion, I had time to devise the theory of the internal frame backpack--the backpack theory.

As I watched the other students spend lavishly on rugs and posters and books and trinkets, I thought to myself what I might do if I had the burden of extra funds. I realized that before I would purchase any of these seemingly superfluous items--the icing on the cake of "stuff"--I'd get right to the core ingredients. Because it's those practical items that allow for other items to be impractical. Frank Lloyd Wright did say, "Give me the luxuries of life and I will willingly do without the necessities." And perhaps he spoke correctly. To me, what could be more fundamental in your closet of items than an internal frame backpack. For sheer versatility alone. Then again, not everyone might rank it so highly on their list. My fundamentals are another's luxuriinternal frame backpackes.

So it comes down to priorities. We're weaving our choices into something that is greater than the sum of its parts, yet we need to realize that those choices are part of the pattern. If our prerogatives are an end to themselves, where's the fun? What good is a cake without frosting. Or, how much better is a frosted cake. But you gotta have cake.


Taking care of number one is an act of progression. Having little or no baggage makes the trip that much easier. Like the Buddhists might say, in order to have everything, you have to have nothing. Why? Focus. Simply, a machine with fewer moving parts has less chance of breaking. Those times in life where I'm least encumbered, things are so much clearer. There's just less to think about. To worry about. To manage. And managing always comes at the expense of something else. Wouldn't we all want a dominion that "without compulsory means" might "flow unto [us] forever and ever" (Doctrine & Covenants 121:46). But the key is to unmanage.


So how does a backpack fit in? Because I can use it. It's a tool. A means. And without means, there are no ends. We always analyze if the ends justify the means. But first of all, means must exist. And if you are starting from nothing, you are inert. You have no means. Inertia means staying in place forever, or being forever in motion. But the trick is the transition from one state of inertia to another. A means. And a backpack is just such a thing.


The less you have, the less you need. And the inverse holds: the more you have, the more you need. It's an uncertain slip into the void of nothingness or an uphill climb towards the pie in the sky. But are there enough slices to go around? "Well, as long as there's enough for me." If to have nothing is to need nothing, then, to have nothing is to have everything. Conversely, once we think we have everything, our only course is to save face and encourage others to do the same. Why? Because I did it. And so can you. Do I have time to help you? No, my time is spend filling my plate, and there is no more time. I may have everything, but I don't have me. Me is filled up with it. What's it? Stuff.

Most of us only react when the void is thrust upon us. It's not something we would rationally choose, for it's far too scary and insecure. And, "we don't do that here." As Churchill said, "Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened."

So, maybe it is possible to have our cake (and icing!) and eat it too. But first, we need a means of conveyance. Say, a backpack. Works for me.