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Point of View: Clearing Out the Detritus

Wed, 04/03/2024 - 11:24

They’re remediating, mitigating, and detoxifying in the basement here at The Star as I write, though the air on the first and second floors seems okay, but what would I know, having grown up in Pittsburgh, whose soot sometimes blocked out the sun in the mornings, my mother used to say.

As part of this building-wide remediation plan, we’ve been told to neaten up our work areas, with a special emphasis on clearing out “detritus.” Now, believing that one person’s detritus is another’s precious possession, I take issue with that. My wife said she could hardly get into my office one day recently, but that’s not to say, even though I have sports pages dating to the turn of the century apportioned in knee-high stacks on the floor, that I’m the Collyer brothers.

And books. Oh boy. They’re all there in the bookcase — and, yes, on top of it too — for a reason, though. Who knows when I might have to reach for them again so I can say, “As so-and-so said. . . .” I think I would be bereft without them, though, as I said to Mary this morning, we average, normal, everyday people probably only have, when you come down to it, a few books we really love. I’ll keep Montaigne, Seneca, and Lewis Thomas then — the rest can go, piecemeal, to the dump.

Are the photos, columns, savory quotes, phone numbers, periods of the school day, the map of Israel with the West Bank toward the east, and the high school sections of New York State that are taped to my wall, not to mention the numberless awards that adorn my desk, detritus? Has their usefulness, to cite detritus’s derivation, worn away? Undoubtedly, I am wearing away. Am I then . . . ? 

(In a way, waning energy, at least when it comes to tennis, isn’t such a bad thing. Shepherding the energy that remains leaves little room, aside from special occasions, for histrionic displays. Senescence serves to concentrate the mind. In more ways than one, I suppose.)

A recent article in The Times breaking down the reasons why our bodies break down said at one point that aging bodies have trouble disposing of garbage cells. That’s it! This aging body, too, has trouble along that same line.

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