Copyright 2004 David C. Loebig
On Coffee Tables and Stuff
It’s All about Coffee Tables and Old Stuff
I have a coffee table. In fact, I have two coffee tables. Furthermore,
I have a coffee table philosophy.
It goes like this: In the past 100 years enough coffee tables have
been built that we should not need to make any more. Anybody who
needs a coffee table should be able to buy one formerly owned by
someone who no longer needs one, namely a dead person.
I’m no theologian or anything, but I’m pretty sure you
can’t take your coffee tables into the afterlife, so we should
be abounding in coffee tables, not to mention cutting boards, hammers
and other useless-when-we’re-dead stuff.
So why do we end up buying so many new cutting boards, hammers and
coffee tables? I don’t know. I do know that we don’t
recycle enough. We end up buying new stuff instead of reusing old
Please note for the record that both of my coffee tables are used,
and they’re made of big, thick wood, so they’re going
to last a hundred years.
Coffee tables are the example for this philosophy, but it applies
to lots of other things, too. We just don’t reuse and recycle
as much as we could.
So here’s my attempt to convince you to recycle if you don’t
already: please, please, please, please, please...
Okay, that’s not it. I just needed five more words to make
this column long enough, and that line filled in nicely.
Anyway, I was surprised recently while visiting friends. When I
asked where to recycle a bottle, they said to throw it in the trash.
This couple, who is otherwise very, very connected to and involved
with the local community, didn’t seem to sense their connection
to the world community.
You see, the problem isn’t that just one of us uses more stuff
than typical individuals in other countries, or that one of us doesn’t
recycle. The problem is that we’re multiplied by 280 million.
You might say that any individual’s recycling won’t
make a difference because millions of others don’t recycle,
but then I might say that if the universe is such that we intrinsically
owe something to humanity, then we certainly owe nothing more than
our own obligation. (Wow, that sounds deep for a silly coffee table
That is to say that you’ll never be accountable for doing
someone else’s duty. You very well may be accountable for not
doing your own, and you might be held accountable for not doing what
you could have done. Besides, even the smallest effort helps some,
especially if we multiply it by 280 million.
Now I’ve heard some rumors that recycling programs are fake,
and the material ends up in land fills. So I called the county recycling
director for a statement. She was out.
So I can only hope that if I had actually spoken with the county
recycling folks, they would have assured me that the cans and bottles
we take to the curb are actually recycled. If they aren’t,
then shame on them.
In my view it’s like buying a ticket for a charity raffle
or donating money. You do your best to choose a worthy organization
and you contribute in good faith. If however, somebody uses that
money for something else, then they’re accountable, not you.
On that fateful day when we have to give up all our stuff including
coffee tables, we won’t be asked about the money somebody else
stole from charity, but we might be asked to pick up all our bottles
Dave Loebig writes and banters out of the Tampa, Fla. area. You can
banter with him at RandomDigressions.com.