The Burning House

Earlier this week it was reported that Sir Richard Branson’s luxury hideaway on his private retreat of Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands burned to the ground after being struck by lightning during a thunderstorm. What was amazing to me was the attitude of the billionaire entrepreneur toward his massive loss, especially given that his personal office containing priceless photographs was destroyed in the fire.

According to reports Branson’s reaction to the fire was one of gratitude that his family and friends, totaling 20 people in all, escaped injury: “At the end of the day, what you realize is that all that matters is the people that you love. Everything else is just stuff. And none of that stuff matters.” I couldn’t agree more. However, assuming one’s loved ones are safe, it helps to think about what one would try to rescue in the event of a catastrophe.

There is even a website called The Burning House that presents readers with the thought-provoking statement: “If your house was burning, what would you take with you? It’s a conflict between what’s practical, valuable and sentimental. What you would take reflects your interests, background and priorities. Think of it as an interview condensed into one question.”

It is a question that my wife and I have considered during our process of whittling our possessions down to the essential. Rather than speak for her I’ll simply list a dozen things here that I’d try to take with me in case of such an emergency, which is not a hypothetical proposition given this week’s Virginia earthquake and hurricane Irene heading toward us as I write.

In no particular order, my stuff to save would likely include my NKJV Bible, Moleskine notebook, Rolf wallet, Nokia phone, Leica camera, Powerbook laptop, iPod Touch, passport, memento box, wedding video, grandmother's picture, and copy of Thoreau's Walden. Also, I wear my wedding band at all times so I didn’t include that in the overall count of items.