October 31, 2012

Don't Let Stuff Tie You Down

Benoit B. Mandelbrot created mathematical shapes that mimic the patterns found in nature
I have always really enjoyed viewing fractals, and knew that they emerged from the brilliant mind of mathematician Benoit B. Mandelbrot. But I didn't know Mandelbrot's background, or that he was a proponent of living life unattached to the things that seem important during normal life.

I was reading a review of Mandelbrot's memoir, The Fractalist, and learned that when he was young he lived in Warsaw, Poland. The paragraph that followed jumped out at me due to its tragedy as well as its truths.

"The family fled to Paris in 1936, in time to escape Hitler’s advances. Looking back on dear friends who didn’t make it out, he laments their procrastination. Some, he writes, “had been detained by their precious china, or inability to sell their Bösendorfer concert grand piano, or unwillingness to abandon the park view from their windows.” He’d learned a lesson about not being tied down."

I live in both an earthquake zone, and a tsunami zone, and in the event of the overdue Big One, we would have only a few minutes to evacuate. When the ground starts shaking, and a 15 meter wave is on its way, is not a good time to be feeling tied down.

We are cultivating the mind set of individuals that need to get out of situations pronto - "Don't have anything in your life you can't walk away from in a second".

We recently had a 3.4 earthquake close to home, and over the past couple of days there was a 7.7 and a 6.2 shaker  up the coast from us. After the 7.7 we were under a tsunami advisory, meaning "stay away from the beach". That is hard for us to do since we live about 5 meters from the ocean, so we kept a wary eye out for rising water.

Fortunately we didn't have any high water or waves that required us to evacuate, but it set the old spider senses to tingling. We looked around at our stuff and tried to visualize walking, or running, away from it all, perhaps never to see it again. Minus the danger involved, it had some appeal.

Like Mandelbrots hesitant neighbours, taking the time to try and 'take it with us' could cost us our lives. We must be prepared to walk away and leave all the unimportant stuff behind, and realize that it is all unimportant stuff.

There is no stuff worth dying for. Most of the time it isn't even worth working for.

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