Sunday, May 09, 2010

The Things You Own...

“Sooner or later we all became what Tyler wanted us to be...” - Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

My heart has been heavy all day with the knowledge that the things that I have collected will not save me. The memorabilia, souvenirs, keepsakes, forget-me-nots, pet rocks, post cards, birthday cards, toy lions, toy T-Rex’s, old bottles, cricket games, books, pictures, CD’s, Band T-shirts, old letters and on and on…all this that I have carted around these many years will not alter the fact that one day I will, in all likelihood, die. I say ‘In all likelihood’ because I still cling to the possibility of a Kurzweilesque technology spike. A singularity event that might give me the option of uploading my consciousness into the digital heavens. Then I could flit around in a virtual reality environment like Second Life or maybe, even better, be downloaded into a new body. I guess that casts grave doubt on whether or not I believe in an afterlife doesn’t it?

Today I tackled the onerous task of unpacking and sorting through the boxes from our most recent house move. It is worse than packing in my opinion. I couldn’t find anywhere to put most things. Assorted random objects flowed out of the boxes like a river of shapes. I tried different drawers but the drawers quickly filled. I moved furniture around but each new move created five smaller moves. It wasn't so much the functional items like tools and stationery that were disturbing me, although I've definitely hoarded too much of that stuff, it was more the personalia: An old love letter, a movie ticket, a little rock I picked up whilst driving across the Nullarbor.

As each new article of personal memorabilia appeared I began to feel worse. I felt the old emotional conflicts rising: Where do you keep them? How do you store them? How do you honour the memories correctly? As the boxes emptied I felt like I was loading weights onto my shoulders. Finally I couldn’t take it any more, I had a long cathartic rant to Eli about how I was feeling strangled by my possessions and then I quit the process for the day.

Overnight I experienced a satori.
I have to let go. What has been upsetting me isn’t only about collecting and hoarding possessions it’s also about accepting that life is passing. It’s a bitter concept for me to digest. I am still coming to terms…think of me as a white belt novice earning his second belt on the long road to mastery.

"Latent form is the master of obvious form" - Heraclitus

My oldest friend died suddenly in August last year. His death has shocked me into acknowledging that our collections will outlive us. I can no longer place the same significance on carrying around collections of sentimental souvenirs. Trying to find cupboards to fill them with, feeling guilty anyway because it might not be the appropriate forum for a piece of genuine Denny memorabilia --then I’m swirling lost again because there's no Show-&-Tell ceremony at which to flag the significance of the items to the world…and even if there was what good would it do for more than a few minutes… maybe an hour?

Lasting change does not live in icons and statues. It might visit. It might cling residual for a few moments to the site of a great victory or linger like smoke around the edges of the podium as we hold aloft the trophy. But then we are all gone home. The game is finished and the time has past. Day's end and trophies gather dust in the night. What good is a memorial if the precious thing we are trying to honour in form doesn't live within us? ---the lights go on and I'm alone in an empty room. The room is stark white and filled with a brilliant light that doesn’t sear my eyes. You might think it’d be lonely. All that empty white space yawning out. But it isn’t. Everything that matters is here. Everything about matter…because It's me, I'm there. I'm the memorial… I am the article of faith.

In the end the things we own are but the worshiping of false icons. If I don’t come to the conception that it's all within me then I am choking, distracted --weighed down…belabouring the idea that If I have the best stamp collection in the world that I wont die. I will become the stamp collection.

I’m far from free of this paradigm. Well short of mastery. I just know that I have to try and let go. I cannot go on filling the attics of our future with stuff. I did a job last month in which I had to clear out the back shed of a deceased gentleman. Half a tonne of marble stone off-cuts that he had duly gathered hobby like from work-sites and hard rubbish piles over the years. I’m not saying that’s wrong. Because he built things with some of the stone and I hope that collecting and neatly arranging the pieces of marble gave him much pleasure. I was just struck by the fact that in the end it was his sons who were left to wonder...what to do with it all. The sense of guilt they felt as they watched us throw it in the back of a truck destined for landfill. So I asked myself: If it’s ok for it to go in the bin when I’m dead maybe some of it should be destined for the bin now?

The memories live in me. I am not my stamp collection or a box of cricket cards…I am no closer to my late Father for having carted around some of his clothes for the last 15 years. I drive past the old houses of our childhoods, the old haunts, the old parks -- We’re not there, it’s not there…It is not the place or the thing is it? It’s you and me. We are the articles of faith.

"And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea."

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock - TS Eliot

~ Footynotes ~

[1] Ray Kurzweil
Theory that one super computer builds a superior super computer which builds a superior super computer and on and on until technology advances exponentially in an unimaginable acceleration or spike. And that then Den can get a fully body transplant if he wants one...
[2] “Ending one minute at a time” – Tyler (Fight Club)
[3] Listening to: Roots - How I Got Up


Lev Lafayette said...

The things we leave can be messages for our children

"It's information and it leaves no mark
It's just as permanent as paintings in the Iron Age"

Chicken Wire, the Harbinger of Heavenly Annotation said...

Great post. I find myself feeling the same way about souvenirs these days.