Being A Burden To Others

In the 14th century text, the Essays in Idleness, Kenko writes:

140) The intelligent man, when he dies, leaves no possessions. If he has collected worthless objects, it is embarrassing to have them discovered. If the objects are of good quality, they will depress his heirs at the thought of how attached he must have been to them. It is all the more deplorable if the possessions are ornate and numerous. If a man leaves possessions, there are sure to be people who will quarrel disgracefully over them, crying, “I’m getting that one!” If you wish something to go to someone after you are dead, you should give it to him while you are still alive. Some things are probably indispensable to daily life, but as for the rest, it is best not to own anything at all.

Translation by Donald Keene

My wife and I have often spoken about this, especially after a couple relatives of mine passed away in the past five years. In each case, the deceased left behind a ton of stuff, and we the family had to of course sift through them. Much of it was worthless junk, a lifetime of accumulation, and the rest led to awkward conversations about who gets what.

My wife and I both agreed that we don’t want to be a burden to our kids someday, so as we get older, we plan to keep very little. Thus, when we die, or move into a nursing home, we hope to leave a light burden to our loved ones.

I think Kenko is on to something here. People naturally collect, and as we get older, that impulse to collect only worsens.

Published by Doug

🎵Toss a coin to your Buddhist-Philhellenic-D&D-playing-Japanese-studying-dad-joke-telling-Trekker, O Valley of Plentyyy!🎵He/him

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