Journal entry 081111: How many things do you carry?

I’m fascinated with how we decide what stuff to carry, and always trying to fine-tune my own collection. I want to know how little I can carry in my pockets and remain civilized, entertained, and productive.

So Kevin Kelly caught my attention with his question, “In ten years from now, how many gadgets will people carry?” asked in his blog titled “The Technium Update.” Kelly is the author of the best-selling book, “What Technology Wants.”

Kelly says that technology wants to specialize, and any device we carry today will have more specialized purposes in the future. More specialized means there will be hundreds of new devices in the coming years, but no one will need very many. He believes we’ll all carry two devices, one multi-function handheld device, and a larger tablet type device. The tablet might be a flat plank, like current tablets, or it may unfold or unroll or expand.

So, of course, I asked myself: How many things do I carry nowadays?

When I dump my stuff into the black plastic tray on my counter every evening I see: keys with knife, phone, wallet, pen, 3x5 cards, coins, breath mints, and watch. I also have reading glasses with me most of the time but they usually end up on my night stand on top of my book rather than in the tray.

I wish my pile was smaller, but I use each of those items every day, so I can’t reduce the pile much. I also can’t add to it since everything has to fit in my pants pockets. When I look at my pile of keys and stuff on my bathroom counter, I wonder how long I could survive if I that’s all I had. Of course, having a credit card in the pile is nice since I could buy anything else I needed.

We’ve been watching old 1980s MacGyver episodes on DVD with Kevin since MacGyver is a good example of a hero who saves the day without violence or a lot of gear. Sooner or later every story has a scene when MacGyver uses his Swiss Army knife to get out of a jam. He uses it as a knife, a screwdriver, an awl, a pry bar, and much more. I don’t remember seeing him use the corkscrew, but we haven’t seen all the episodes yet, and to be honest I always thought the corkscrew was a bulky waste of volume in a compact device. Surely the few occasions when a corkscrew was needed one of the other tools would work as well.

I have my own small Swiss Army knife on my keychain, and it has a knife, flat screwdriver, scissors, tweezers, and toothpick. It’s definitely designed to solve urban problems. I use the scissors more than anything else.

But really, the closest thing I carry to MacGyver’s multi-purpose Swiss Army knife, as far as solving daily problems and continually rescuing me is concerned, is my phone. It is my camera (which I didn’t even need to carry just a few years ago), computer, photo album (and way better than the plastic fan-fold albums I used to carry in my wallet), address book, calendar, calculator, gaming platform, FM radio, alarm clock, Bible, map, GPS, dictionary, weather station, conversion chart, calorie counter, video viewer, and cycling odometer. Some people used their phone as a portable book but I haven’t dived into that yet - I’m still an analog book guy, and the phone screen is too small for extended reading. My phone also has a cool simulated trombone, but all I know how to do so far is show it off; I can’t play any songs.

I can imagine in a few years that my phone will also serve as my credit card, driver’s license, insurance card, and library card, completely eliminating my need for a wallet. It might even replace my ring of keys someday, but changing all our locks to receive a code from my phone sounds expensive.

Oh, I forgot, I also use my phone as a telephone, and for texting and emailing and Tweeting and Facebooking, which are all extensions of the telephone realm.

So my phone is my Swiss Army knife. If someone made a phone case that actually had a pull-out knife and screwdriver and scissors, I would be all set. I would be MacGyver.

However, as I stared at my pile, I wondered what I’d be looking at if I piled up my behavior patterns and thought processes that I use every day and never travel without. Would I be proud of what I saw? Would it be truly essential stuff or just a lot of old baggage that I’m too insecure to toss over the side?

I hope I would see prayer in the pile, and a hunger for the word of God. I hope I would see a seeking heart. I hope I would see humor and fun and smiles.

Is my pile of particular habits and disciplines enough to get me through life? I don’t have a personality VISA card to buy my way out of trouble, I have to rely strictly on what I already have. However, I do have a deep source of strength in Cyndi, and unlimited survival resources in Jesus. Those aren’t bad assets.


So, what’s in your pile? How many things do you carry?


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

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