The other day, I was wolfing down a sandwich while writing notes for a speech, when friend Steve Kappenman sidles up with a piece of copier paper in his hand. "Uh, oh - bill," I thought automatically, looking for a handy exit.
Turns out, thought, it is a little story that he wanted to share, which he has up in his office nearby.
It tells how, in the 18th century, an American visited a renowned Polish rabbi, Hofetz Chaim. He was astonished to see that the famous man's home was one simple room filled with just books, plus a table and one bench.
"Rabbi," asked the visitor, "where is your furniture?"
"Where is yours?" replied Hoftez Chaim.
"Mine?" asked the puzzled American. "But I'm only a visitor here. I'm only passing through."
"So am I." said the rabbi.
It's a very good story, and Steve and I both agreed that we both agreed with the sentiment.
And then he drove off in a quite long and luxurious automobile, and I chewed thoughtfully on a Subway sandwich for an amount of money that would feed a whole family in a third world village for a week.
This, it seems, is not the eighteenth century.
My family does suggest, however, that I am barely beyond the knuckle-dragging stage of the caveman, since our little place isn't yet outfitted with cell phones that double as musical instruments, digital cameras, mini computers and fashionable accessories, and since Casa del Clutter is not even wired into broadband high speed internet rat race. I have no satellite dish, no video cam, no dishwasher, no Tivo, no garage door opener, no watch, and I've never really found myself wanting for any of them.
All of this may have more to do with the nature of my most humbling employment than any great philosophical expression, but I think what friend Steve and the old Rabbi are telling us is that simplicity by choice can be a beautiful thing.
It's good to realize what matters, and that it isn't all the shiny stuff we can greedily compile in our all-to-few jaunts around the sun.
You can spend a lifetime chasing bigger houses, bigger SUV's, bigger diamonds... and not end up with much to show for it all except perhaps a bigger funeral.
Thank you, Steve, for passing on a sentiment we can all use a reminder on - and the simple life we're talking about isn't the one you get on Paris Hilton's reality show with designer overalls.
You really can't take it with you, and if it distracts us from the true treasures, all the bling-bling in the world isn't going to help.
All of sudden I feel like going with the smaller sandwich tomorrow.
Just passing through... hey, aren't we all...