Friday, March 13, 2015

A Meditation On "Things"

The other day I had a new thought with regards to my albums, CDs and books, which I am going to attempt to extrapolate on here. Let's begin with a "What if...?" question.

What if instead of giving everything names we call them by what each really is: a thing. So instead of books, albums and CDs we have things. Instead of furniture we have things. Instead of tools we have things. Instead of clothes we wear things.

Now what if we analyze human behavior based on this new way of looking at things?

One thing we'd see is that this country is awash in things. From our first birthday we start receiving things. And as we grow and our interests expand we usually start collecting things. Eventually we grow up and live in large things with many rooms which are all filled with things.

I have never known anyone who had a house and it had no things in it. I did know a family once who had empty rooms in their home because they bought a house they could barely afford and did not want to live beyond their means by buying furniture. This condition did not last forever. Like all houses it was eventually filled with things.

The more money people have the bigger the house (the thing we live in) and the more rooms to fill with things, which we seem always ready to do.

How many things do we need? The things we read accumulate, the things we listen to do the same as do the things we watch.

The great achievement of the Industrial Revolution was its ability to reproduce things in mass. Printing presses all over the world spit out things by the thousands per hour.

Andy Warhol, when Picasso died, read an article that said the great artist had produced 55,000 works of art and 4,000 masterpieces over the course of his lifetime. Warhol quipped, "I can produce four thousand masterpieces in a day." The miracle of screen printing is the rapidity with which it can produce more things.

All things being equal, how many things do we need?

More than one artist I know has had to decide just how many things they can afford to store after they make them. Why this compulsion to make more things?

I know another artist who instead of creating more things set about recycling her things. In a 2012 interview Wanda Pearcy stated, "In grad school I sought after a process or a deliberate set of rules that would guide my art making process. Due to post modernism’s dismantling of the standard set of artistic rules artists used to make their work, it became necessary for each artist to create their own guidelines. The guidelines I developed became an art series called 'Art as Life.' This series started with a physical process of transforming my oil paintings, literally dismantling them strand by strand, hand shredding them and then restructuring them into sculpture. In the end, this series developed a set of rules that I would follow to allow my art to fit the lifestyle and value choices that I live by."

What gives a thing its value? My initial thought is that experiences are what are truly valuable. Hence we find many people abandoning the collecting of things in order to spend more time having experiences. It is possible for a thing to trigger the memory of an experience, and we value this thing for its trigger value. It might be a photograph or scribblings in a diary.

Our tendency is to accumulate so many things that they become a burden instead of a blessing. Worse, since you can't take it with you, someone else has to deal with all these things when you've finally departed.

How many of my things are really important to me? For certain they will be less important than that for the people who come after me.

I'm sure there are corollary channels we can travel down from this starting point but this is as far as I will take it here. As I stare at all the things scattered here on my desktop it depresses me. What am I supposed to do with all these things. Notes, scraps of paper with doodles, business cards, Post It notes, pills, art cards, pens, CDs, more pens, and containers with still more pens. Ack!

Well, having just finished watching The Lego Movie last night, there is only one way to end this post today. "Everything is awesome!"

May your weekend be filled with experiences that make you smile.


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