My office has no closet, so several years ago I rented a small storage closet down the hall. Gradually I filled it up with stuff that I had no place for and didn’t want to see.
Last month the building informed me of its plan to build an electrical closet in what had been my storage. So all these things barged back into my office. No other storage is available, forcing me into a standoff with them.
It’s like looking at old clothes, except that the notes, books, and writings I had stored away record the use I have made of my mind. Mementos of my enthusiasms, mental wanderings, and lasting passions, they inevitably resurrect the human relationships that formed around them. And, just as every human relationship has a different form, meaning and ending, so my archive records how my various intellectual expeditions blossomed, transmogrified, petered out, or liberated me. Sorting out these files, my present self saunters down a strange memory lane.
“Who started what” strikes me as an important theme. Some of what I’m hanging onto sprang from my own desires and inclinations. In other cases, I wrote or studied for the sake of a relationship: I didn’t choose the project or the patron, but they chose me. Knowing this, I expect “the big sort” to fortify the boundaries that paradoxically set the intellect free.