Could Materialism Be Good for Emotional Health?

| 10/19/2007 12:00:00 AM

Walrus October 2007"These days, we are all supposed to be sleek, tidy, and unburdened by material goods,” writes R.M. Vaughan in the October issue of the Walrus, and that may not be such a good thing. In “Dominick’s Fish” (partial article available online), Vaughan tenderly reports on the the aquatic rescue of hundreds of fish left behind when a friend unexpectedly passes away.

Well aware that many people would have just flushed the buggers, Vaughan finds cause to unpack the mixed messages of an anti-clutter culture that instructs us to shop nonstop, but clear our lives of meaningless things. Perhaps the things we cherish do have value, and, as Vaughan argues, “that such care resonates, and that the objects of our attentions and affections, no matter how slimy or scaly, can, and should, outlast us.”

Adopting this stance, naturally, could make dealing with possessions the deceased leave behind more emotionally complicated. It also could free us during our lives to acknowledge the material things we all quietly, sometimes guiltily, hold dear.—Julie Hanus 

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