Friday, September 12, 2008

The Life of Objects #1

Eberle has a deep belief in the life of objects—she is quite capable of talking about the ontological reality of a teapot. In honesty, I’ve come to see that this is something we have very much in common, & explains why we both have a propensity for collecting knick-knacks.

Of course, you can say that the life of objects has to do with your associations—you associate that teapot, for instance, with your favorite aunt, & so the teapot is a symbol of your aunt in the sense that it stands in for her in her actual absence. There’s truth in this of course—we exchange objects as remembrances & as messages—a “keepsake,” a “souvenir,” a “memento”—all of this is related to memory, & memory constellates around absence & presence. In this sense, photos become a truly valued object, because they capture an event or a person & give some sort of access—as if thru Alice’s Looking Glass—to the story we tell ourselves about a certain time or certain person.

But objects that aren’t representational also can do this. We see the teapot, & we recall the emotions we associate with this aunt—an emotional memory that triggers actual narrative memories.

The question, then, is: do some objects have more inherent “life” than others? Do some have a capacity to resonate more clearly with others? Certainly people have affinities for some objects & not for others—I couldn’t see myself collecting Hummels, for instance, but when I was a kid some of my mom’s friends certainly did. Presumably, those Hummels had a life for these women, spoke to them in a certain way (obviously, in all of this I’m ignoring the species that collects simply as an investment).

I have objects that resonate in this way, & from time to time I’ll write about them. The first is a red plane lamp that Eberle bought for me at the Antique Peddler in Cambridge, ID. It stands on a table in my den—yes, I actually have a den, as retro as that sounds—next to the recliner. Because it’s red & is a lamp, it glows as a night-light, & when I’m up early & it’s still dark it’s a friendly glow coming from the core of the house (the den has no outside walls & opens into the front room off the kitchen).

The ironic thing is I’m scared silly of flying. There really isn’t enough Ativan around to get me on a plane; & as Eberle says, I’d really have to take Ativan from the moment I decided to book a reservation until I was safely at home. But it’s ok—I just don’t fly. Still, the red plane has nothing but pleasant associations for me. It speaks to me—oddly enough (it being a plane) about safety & warmth—the essence of “home.” Is it the warm red glow? Is it the plane’s handsome, sorta art deco design? Is it my association of the plane with Eberle? Or is the whole greater than the sum of its parts?

I sit in the recliner & the plane is on the table beside me. I don’t actually make up stories about the plane or anything like that—the type of resonance I’m talking about is emotional & literally “sub-conscious;” it’s like background music, affecting your mood & thoughts without really rising into consciousness. But the plane sometimes seems both friendly & slightly exotic—the latter as befits a plane, since it (in imagination) travels to foreign places. At the same time, it’s glowing from the heart of the house, a space where I can go for rest or retreat.

It’s startling that an object can inspire such intimate emotions….

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