Sunday, August 28, 2016

Age Old Appreciation

What part of us does not fragment? There is a biblical dust to our sensibilities, to our bones, to our history. I stooped in my studio to the detritus flitting and fallen from a treasured book, and the random flecks I then off-handed into the garbage bin. After a more than 80 year old journey where might these pieces of old glue and cardboard and paper and even remnants of print end? What will eventually become of this beloved book inscribed by a father to a son? And just how many other fragmentations of bodies and beings and what was once so vital now lie in our cemeteries, where gravestones are no longer cleaned? (Even today I purchased a $6 book inscribed, "For Catherine from Auntie Ruth, 1950".) Yet what vitality is there other than in the memory, if not in the import one gives anything at all? Someone's cherished bric-a-brac is indeed another's junk. Take a look into a scrap yard. That headlight from a 1947 MG is priceless! Yet...., 'need' it? "That's the problem with this whole culture: More things is good. More money is good. More 'more' is good," says Morrie Swartz. (I know the lines well. I'm to reprise 'Tuesdays with Morrie' at the local Langham Court Theatre, this October. I have to hope my memory stays intact!)

Thing is, you'd have to be there to appreciate it. You'd have to know something of the story. You'd have to have some care, spurred on by your identification with whatever the event, the thing, the memory, the moment is for you. (Why else, when rummaging through a second hand box, would you take up or purchase my old book on Bolivia?) We want what we want because of an ascribed value. An unburnished diamond is but a pebble to the uneducated. Gold had no intrinsic value until made so by others. And so, much of the values we have in our houses, in our wardrobes, in our photo albums, and in the prints we have on our walls is ascribed to it by the souls to whom it has some 'real' meaning. How else to sell indulgences? How else to sell relics? How else to have a box of sea shells that bare significance? How else to smile at a scratch on the floor, knowing that it was made there by one's beloved pet, by one's absent child, or by some long ago advent with which is associated a 'happy' memory? Appreciation is all.

Thing is, the product is the epitome of the desire during the journey. It's 'all well and good' to be working in one's garden, to be struggling with the painting, to be practicing at the guitar, to be writing the yet unsent letter, to be cooking. It's the product that one is aiming at. It's the book at last held in hand after looking for it in multiple used book stores. It's the horse well-in-hand after having fallen off it a few times. It's the recipe turned out 'just right'. We are given to product. Even pregnancy immerses us in an expectation. So too does evolution. So too does renovation. So too does the going about our daily routines; we are fired if not 'productive'. Yet being at a place of peace with the self during all of it is what really is at stake; for what piece of peace is not fleeting and ephemeral at its best? The product is not really a resting place; one merely shifts gears, changes attention, goes on to do something else. We wish almost constantly for something else. One sip. One taste. One holiday. One weekend. None of them are enough. (Especially, if like me, you are an inveterate collector. Books. Music. I get more and more!)

"Are you at peace with yourself? Are you trying to be as 'human' as you can be?" Morrie asks of Mitch on the stage. And the implication is that no matter what one is doing or where one is at, at any age ("all this emphasis on youth, don't buy it!" Morrie urges) any age we are capable of being 'at peace with the self'. Quite the challenge! All around us is fragmentation, disintegration, and decay; as well, there is regeneration, renovation, and birth. We are changelings in a world full of changes. Even everything in the universe is changing too, "just a lot more slowly". Indeed, acceptance is all. All practice and product and aspirations and achievements and attainments can be sustained by that most elemental of connections to our universe: appreciation. Care, even for a speck of floating detritus given accord as it once more goes to be absorbed by the larger matter is made significant by relevance to the self; pets, friends, family. All was born. All will die too. And how we feel in our links to things, plants, animals, people, or places, that’s the vitality we feel. Or not. Appreciation; it’s an age old feeling, at any age, indeed!

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