Friday, 2 October 2015

Civilization and its contents

All human life is lived among ‘things’. Isolation exists only in our imagination. We can no more escape the world and its supposedly, inert and lifeless things than we can walk away from our own shadow.

My home is blessed with ‘things’ - the product of my wife’s lifelong passion for the curious and collectible. Small or large all are priceless; layered with stories, our own and countless unknown others; a store of values that puts them beyond the reach of any valuer.

Poppy has always said that we do not own any of these things but are merely borrowing them. For now we share our life with them – and they with us, in their unique, staring fashion. One day we shall be gone. They will remain, silently awaiting the next borrower.

Some of them may carry our stamp but this is an insignificant imprint. For a short time, a line may trace itself back to us but soon that too will fade and we shall fall from the provenance. What can never be erased is the light touch or simple gaze that connected us to the thing in the first place.

Through this connection we become part of its history: linked with countless others who, like us, were involved with it; from imagining its creation; through producing the raw materials for its making and the various stages in its construction, production or creation; to the complex logistics involved in putting it out into the world. 

Over time, countless hands will be involved in an unimaginably complex web of relationships: buying and selling, valuing and gifting, losing and rediscovering, this truly remarkable thing.

The many, largely mythical, stories about the theft and return of the Mona Lisa assume a celebrated ordinariness when we consider the massive canvas that is the backdrop for the life of any object – whether it comes from a bargain shop shelf or the Valley of the Kings.

That web of connectedness draws us into the story of the thing, whether we realise it or not. We become bit players in the cast of thousands who all have contributed to its inscrutability.
As I gaze around the room I often wonder who is watching whom. When I handle some ‘lifeless’ thing, its story pulses through me. It is hard not to be impressed by such a silent blessing.