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November 8, 2022

Dear friends,

My family tends to overpack. If you have ever seen our car for a road trip, you would know that the previous sentence is a bit of an understatement. We pack all sorts of things, for all sorts of contingencies. One of the things now is I have to make sure I have all of the different charging cables we are going to need for all of the various devices we use. We pack for a week like we are going to stay there for two, and we will still have to do laundry in the middle of it.

I’m going on a sailboat trip with some friends. In fact, when this article comes out I will be somewhere in the Atlantic. As we are getting ready for this trip, I keep asking them for a packing list, and not really getting anywhere with them. Of the four friends, I am the only one who has ever had to pack for more than myself, and so there is a bit of a disconnect. But they finally told me, you really don’t need much. We are on a boat the entire time. We are not going to be around other people or need different clothes for different occasions. So in thinking about it, I may be able to put everything I need into one backpack, which is something I haven’t done in a long time.

One of the devotionals I use is a small book called “Journeys of Simplicity.” In that book, it gives a brief biography of a well-known figure, and then a list of things they had with them. My favorite is one of the first ones, which is about the Trappist monk, Thomas Merton. Thomas Merton is an imposing figure in my life. His autobiography sits behind me on my desk, and his “Thoughts in Solitude” is one of the best books of spirituality I’ve ever read. He lived a hugely meaningful life, which the brief bio in my book talks about, and then it lists his personal effects almost like a poem:

Timex watch

one pair of dark glasses tortoise frames

two pairs of bifocal eyeglasses plastic frames

two Cistercian leather-bound breviaries

one rosary (broken)

one small icon on wood Virgin and Child

We have a tendency to overpack; overpack our lives, overpack our attention, overpack our expectations, overpack our houses and relationships. As we are moving toward the end of the year 2022 and thinking about 2023, let's pack what we need.



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