Friday, September 25, 2015

Things, Hm? (#1 of 3)


Uni-level thinking focuses chiefly on things. Like my record-album collection. Like my souvenirs. Like my new-ish car, my possibly new house, my collectible dishes, my curios, my mementos, and my personal knick-knacks.  One becomes consumed by the stuff. Difficult to get away from the significance of it all; difficult to diminish the feeling of ownership, connection, or attachment. Difficult not to want to explain, to share, even to show off. Difficult at times even to acquire!

“I wore my new striped bell-bottoms and my Carnaby Street double breasted blazer,” I once wrote with pride to my father, back in 1968. Surely he would think more of me for now owning and wearing such fashionable items. I was in my 17th year! And although John van Niekerk, my best friend in those cataclysmic years of youth (full of broken rules and wild adventures,) ... although John had given me his second-hand items, I was full of pride at their ownership. Me, wearing a .... Surely the girls would take notice! Surely...

“You can play three or four chords over and over as we walk the beach,” I told Peter, my brother, when I gave him that first of his second-hand guitars, back in the beginning of 1970. We were scheduled for a holiday and I was hoping he’d learn to play; with him beside me we’d impress the girls! Boy, would we ever impress!

And then it was my first car. And then it was...  Well, my things have had significance to me because...

We give ourselves reasons for our attachments. Two pebbles given in hand to me by a very special friend from our stop beside a turbulent tributary stream to the Colorado River are beside me in their glass case as I type. So too is a little marble pyramid (got by my Dad in 1963) above me on the shelf. So too for two little ivory carved elephants, as small together as is my pinky. Then there’s my precious blue wren from Australia, and... But what do you really care about my things? We weep crocodile tears for the loss of another’s sentimental stuff; it can mean little to ourselves. What is my glass bubble to you? What of my poster of Romeo and Juliet? What of..? What’s it to you?

One collects for some deep well to fill in the self. For some of us there is never enough. Some collect those little crystal things one sees of unicorns and bears and lions and tigers, oh my! Some collect movie posters, or movies themselves. Some collect beer bottles, or stamps. One friend I know (with lots of money) collects and restores old cars! And me?  Well, apart from my books (I love books!) there is my record-album collection. Did I mention it before? Well, let me show you...

Who has time sufficient for another? Who really cares about your own stuff? Who will go through my library, book by book, and hear why it is I treasure this one, or that one? Who will open up my iTunes file and look at all 4,400 plus of my albums? (Especially the album covers!) “That many?” Yes, with my brother-Andy’s visit last year he added about 1,000 Afrikaans albums. Yes, with friend David’s extensive record collection he gives me lots of music whenever he visits. And there’s.... But who really ‘cares’?

We speak of ‘things’ ad nauseum. We choose things based on how we might appear, how we might feel, and then too, because of their usefulness to us. Well, if usefulness is about the feeling one gets from a thing, then a lot of things do indeed mean a lot to a lot of people. Thing is, do they mean anything to you? And then again, is it necessary to talk, to tell, to write, and to focus so much energy on any one of them? Aren’t they, well, for you? Hm?


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