Monday, January 12, 2015

Stuff Stays

[photo courtesy of Brian Crovet]
Stuff outlasts us. A precious little girl, struck by a sudden avalanche, died just before Christmas this year. Here, in Vancouver! Dismayed by her death, and so very conscious of the pain of those who cared for her, we apportioned the sad news into compartments privately visited over the holiday season. We did not want our friends and acquaintances to know; there was too much of celebration in the air. Christmas. New Year. And now, although the years will certainly diminish the intensity of the immediate memory of her, it is her things that shall remain, treasured by those who knew her, her bereaved parents, her loving family; yet one day they too shall pass on, and whatever that lovely little girl left behind will likely end up in an antique store, or a recycling shop, or be lost entirely. So too for each of us: our gravestones, our things. Yet though we may be forgotten in antiquity, our lost things can gain in meaning. Appreciation is all.

The dinky-toy race-car (unearthed some thirty years ago in the back garden of my now sixty-plus year old friend) for some reason this week regained his interest. He wanted to repair the front tires. A Google search revealed the battered little thing now worth up to $400! The condition, of course, mattered.

The condition of things takes on many meanings. Relationships. Families. Finances. And especially health. They all do fluctuate. Material things too. We can refurbish. We can fix, glue back, and entirely replace bits and pieces. Just like we do with our bodies. Yet the more original, authentic, and aged a material thing, the more value it has. Irony is, it matters sometimes not so much who owned a thing, as long as the particulars for its perfection are met. My friend’s dinky-toy is much scratched up, but what if it ‘once upon a time’ had belonged to a prince? Well, my 90+ year-old friend, M'Lady Nancy in Australia, happens to have an ancient oak armoire, dating back to the late 800's. It came directly from Arundle Castle, mentioned in King Aelfred's will. His very own eyes may have seen it!

Who was Aelfred?

He amalgamated the fractious Angles, Saxons, and Jutes under the Treaty of Northumberland. He promulgated the Anglo Saxon Chronicles, whereby our English language finds its roots. He instigated England's first navy. He established education as a necessity for his people. And the possibility of our now seeing something he saw, let alone touching it, or having it, makes it very valuable indeed! Are our museums not treasure troves of just such things? Ever heard of the Aelfred broach? Or the Bayeux Tapestry?

Things outlast us. And though we might collect them with care and addiction (like a full set of crockery, or the works of Shakespeare) they eventually get passed on until deemed no longer of much value. (Seen a 20+ volume collection of Encyclopaedia Britannica owned by anyone lately?)

The Pulsar watch I wear (almost daily) is now over 30 years old. Several battery and wrist-strap changes have kept it with me and ticking. Functionality has assured its value. But who would treasure it once it no longer works? Yet the beauty of many collectibles continues to inspire the perceiver, and so the presumed value accretes. Paintings certainly can do that. But what of the value of my vast iTunes collection; or even of all my books; or even of my ... many other things?

A life extinguished in reality can live on in the perception. King Aelfred's life; that lovely little seven year old girl's life. (Although I did not know her, I care deeply for her grandfather and aunt.) We do give any life value according to known or inherent significance, historically. (You likely did not know this little girl, but if you did?) So too for things. Five hundred years hence some things we can think of will have even more value. Some people perhaps too. But most of what we now have will have gone by the way of the discarded. In the meantime, appreciation is all. 

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