Staring at the small, mauve-colored book, I realized de-cluttering and downsizing often involve giving up some dreams.
Like all the other math majors at my college, I loved our two main professors, Dr. Deere and Dr. Burnside. So my sophomore year, when Dr. Deere, the department chairman, decided to offer a course in topology, he didn’t have to twist many arms to get enough of us to take his class. It wasn’t long before we all realized we were in over our heads, including Dr. Deere. He was as relieved as we were that it was only a one-semester course. All I can tell you about topology is that it has to do with spaces, and there’s something about a coffee mug morphing into a donut.
Planning to Finish Topology
By the time I graduated, I was more comfortable with concepts of abstract math, so I bought a spiral notebook the same color and size as my topology text, and I resolved to work through the book on my own. I got through the first two chapters before putting book and notebook on the shelf for later. “Later” never came, but the book and notebook went through four moves.
As I held that book recently, I thought of my classmate Sandra, another math major who sat beside me in most of our courses. Sandra became a missionary and served several years in a remote area of Ghana. I thought, “I’ll bet Sandra didn’t haul her old topology book all the way to Ghana and back. She probably tossed it a long time ago.”
The slender book didn’t take up much shelf space, but our shelf space has become scarce. This book came to represent an un-kept promise to myself and the dream of mastering something that had stumped me in the past. I finally took a deep breath and got rid of it. You might expect me to say I feel joyously liberated now, but no, there’s still a twinge of regret. But I’ve started looking at other things (a lot of craft supplies, for example) and trying to ask myself honestly which ones I will ever really use and which ones are only taking up space. Admitting you’ll never do something is the hard aspect of parting with things like that. In small or big ways, it’s giving up a dream, but it helps to recognize that and move on.
Weeding Out Thorns
In our class at church recently we talked about the Parable of the Sower. In this story Jesus tells about a farmer who broadcast seed in a field. The seed symbolized God’s word. Some fell on the hard-packed path and never germinated. Some sprouted in rocky soil but soon died for lack of good roots. Some started growing among thorny weeds and got choked out. Some fell on fertile soil and thrived.
The class members were most interested in discussing the thorny weeds, which Jesus described as “life’s worries, riches, and pleasures.” (Luke 8:14) Some of these things are essential to paying the bills, but what other weeds are choking us and keeping us from more fruitful lives? Maybe weeding out my old topology book and the baggage it represented was a good start.