past lives’ touch
reclaimed by the wild —
Master of the monomyth Joseph Campbell said that “[l]ife is without meaning. You bring the meaning to it. The meaning of life is whatever you ascribe it to be. Being alive is the meaning.”
One of the ways that we create meaning in our lives is by surrounding ourselves with meaningful objects, things that imbue our lives with a unique sort of character. We have so many of these that it’s hard to count, but I’m compelled by this line of thought to consider the things I have which gain the least amount of use, yet I choose to hold on to them anyway: metal lunch boxes, 3D glasses, binoculars, Legos, Rubik’s Cubes, typewriters, safety razors, small glass bottles — utilitarian elements of times past; some were made even before my father was born, although the Legos are, for the most part, newer.
I remember the visions of the future we were brought by the late 20th century media, how everything was so austere; clean, white surfaces, friendly rounded corners and flowing edges, curved elements. Clutter was a thing of the past, presumably because everything we used was either hidden behind clever wall panels or consolidated into a single device. It was a vision of delight, if you like boring sterility in a world where everyone wears jumpsuits and latex gloves.
What happened to those spartan environments? Where are they now — all those post-modern living spaces reminiscent of Kubrik’s A Clockwork Orange? I don’t know a single person so devoid of culture and character as to want to live in a place like that.
We surround ourselves with stories in the form of physical items: mementos and tchotchkes, nicknacks and bric-a-brac, the flotsam and jetsam of a life worth its spice — a unique, real-world memory palace. We cast them against a backdrop of richly stained wood and painted colors from nature — because where else would colors come from? Note that we traditionally named the shades and hues after flowers and birds, elements like the sky and the sea. Without even thinking, we make our living places an extension of the natural world that has hosted our presence since time out of mind, because we could never divorce ourselves from it. How could we live in these bastions of sensory deprivation?
If I were asked what object my friends would most closely associate with me, I would find it hard to answer because as far as I know, I have no signature accessory. When I polled Facebook via status, I got answers ranging from my Jeep to my mohawk. Obvious answers, and perhaps telling because I couldn’t finish the phrase “he never goes anywhere without that dang _______!” Things like my car, my hair, my keys, my wallet, and my phone just don’t count.
But hey, how many people can you only associate with their phones, am I right?
What do these items I’ve collected and surrounded myself with say about me? Well, maybe they say that I’m a man of fine distinction with a penchant for not letting go of a fading past; or maybe — just maybe — I’m someone who misses a world where everyone’s nose is not buried in a smartphone.
Maybe tomorrow I’ll post a photo gallery of all my cool stuff.