Friday, July 8, 2011

Another Minor Musing About Stuff

I've previously mentioned that it frequently appears that possessions own us.  Jason Peters at The Front Porch Republic provides a reason for that phenomenon.
I am describing—or at least attempting to describe—at least two facts of human existence that I’m going to go ahead and call “mysteries.” One is that our attachment to certain objects, or objects of a certain kind or category, suggests at least this much about us: we are a species that craves presence. The other is that to us an object is never merely an object. It is always itself plus something else.

Another way to put this would be to say that, properly speaking, there is no such thing as an object. The world is not filled with objects. It is filled with images.
Peters poetically concludes,
We are creatures of flesh and blood; flesh and blood are what we crave. Not to crave them is to diminish our humanity. The boy holding out his ball cap for an autograph is behaving in accordance with his incarnate condition—that is, in accordance with his full humanity.
Somehow, this conclusion seems both correct and hopelessly optimistic.  Peters seems to gloss over the fact that attachment to physical objects seems to express fear.  The desire to possess goes deeper than angst that the object may some day be necessary.  That fear that something useful may not be available when needed prompted my parents, both children of the depression, to save nearly everything.  Taken to an extreme that fear becomes a paranoia that produces the tragic souls exhibited like zoo animals on television programs like Hoarders.

The deeper fear is the fear of human fallibility, especially the fallibility of memory. Peters alludes to that fear when he writes,
The mother mourning the death of her son will not settle for the mere mental image of him. She will have photographs—that is, images. The absent lover will not be satisfied with the memory of his beloved; he will have a token that his body can partake of, most likely a token that evokes his senses of sight and smell. And, as valuable as the email message from her may be, it isn’t the piece of paper the girl’s hand—the hand he longs to hold—moved across as she wrote.
All of these examples point to human fear that memory will fail.  Humans forget even the things we solemnly promise ourselves that we will remember.  The parent, lover, mourner, old person in a rocker can use the object to prompt memory and the solace memory provides.

The deeper fear, one that goes to the core of being human is the fear of being forgotten.  The knowledge that all memories fade and that objects prompt memory may cause humans to value possessions that others can associate with us.  After we pass, the object will survive and the object can serve as a kind of totem preserving us in memory.

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