Posted by: Mike
So– just to clarify, flotsam is wreckage of a ship or boat that is found floating or washed up on the shore, and jetsam is unwanted material that has been thrown overboard. Jetsam is a contraction of jettison, and flotsam is from Anglo-Norman French, from “floter,” to float. Although they result from two quite different scenarios, it is reasonable to see the two terms combined, as the finder of either, at sea or on the shore, might have some trouble distinguishing between them. If you find a crate of trash, however, or a spar and life jackets, the distinction would be rather easy to make.
Metaphorically, lots of uses can be made of flotsam and jetsam. To be a little morbid, but to make a point, over the years helping to clear out the homes of the recently deceased it has been easy to see how much most people accumulate of “things”; most of which not only could have been jettisoned and most of which was acquired for reasons that were not based upon need and which could have been dispensed with. It must be something innate in humans that drives us to accumulate and to be so reluctant to let go. I’m not talking about the compulsive hoarder, but rather about most of the rest of us. It makes sense, however, if you think about early humans living in small tribes. Although living a nomadic existence warrants having only limited possessions, once the tribe has settled down, some aspects of having things makes life a whole lot easier.
It might be good practice if we could say to ourselves, “Could I walk away from everything I have and remain reasonably happy and who I am now? ” If we say, “No,” to the question, I wonder if it would be possible to redirect ourselves (somehow working out the internal conflicts) so that we could be able to say, “Yes,” and mean it. Remarkably, I expect that we would find it quite freeing. The flotsam and jetsam may contain some of our history, but they also contain binds that limit our freedom to be who we are.