You Must Purge the Stuff from Your Land
One of the oldest schemes for spiritual development is a simple, three-phase progression: purgation, illumination, and union. The last couple weeks have been a nearly constant exercise in the first phase.
Though it hasn’t been in a spiritual sense, exactly. We’re moving to Toronto so that I can begin my PhD studies. We’re taking a small trailer behind a small car, which means that we’re sorting through the apartment and getting rid of a very large amount of stuff. They’re starting to greet me by name at the local Goodwill drop-off.
It’s startling how much stuff we’ve accumulated, and we’re not particularly old, pack-rat-y, or stuff-oriented people. Still, things pile up. Things pile up that we didn’t even remember we had. Things pile up that, after we go back to it a few years later, we can’t quite figure out why we kept it in the first place. So out it goes.
Sometimes, this has been a hard process. I just watched my leather couches go, which I had found online for an amazing price, and a few weeks back I sent off my grandfather clock, which while cheap, was an oddly sentimental piece. I have the type of personality that doesn’t attach to stuff much, and my wife isn’t hugely attached either, but it takes its toll.
Last night, my wife stated it directly when the emotional impact of what we’re doing struck her. Purgation is hard. We get attached to things, and getting rid of them is difficult. We wrap up a part of our identities in things, and this is true not only of objects, but people, habits, desires, sins, ideas, vices… Letting go of these attachments is not an easy thing. It can be like slicing off a part of yourself, and who wants to take a knife to their own body? That seems like madness.
Yet purgation is part of growth. We attach to some things because we need them, and then we must detach from them because they hold us back. Like Linus from Peanuts who clung to his blanket, we can’t give things up. We don’t believe that we will be all right without it. Somewhere in our deepest hearts, we don’t believe it will be okay without knowing the latest trouble the Jenkins have gotten into. We believe it will drive us mad if we don’t peek at that magazine. Colleen is so comforting/funny/exciting/etc. that we believe life would be horrible without her. We attach and believe the attachments must stay, even if they are cancerous.
Purgation is hard. But it’s life – part of growing up. Not everything must be detached from, but many things. And culling through the closets in the soul is necessary now and then. Israel had to “purge the evil from [their] land” in order to grow into a strong nation. So do we.