Sunday, January 24, 2010

On the love of the preloved and the sanctity of stuff

I was in a "getting things done" mood on the weekend. We capitalised on this rather rare occurrence by finally relieving ourselves of the boxes of unwanted books that have been mooching about in our spare room. Some were freecycled. Others we took to a secondhand bookshop - a rather bizarre establishment. There was barely standing room for all 72 000 (at last inventory, apparently) books stacked precariously upon eachother in vast teetering towers. I was a bit worried about triggering a book avalanche.

I felt a bit bad leading the rather eccentric owner into temptation with more potential stock that he clearly did not need - he was obviously suffering from a serious book habit! But I could relate to this, I love secondhand books too. They have a special smell, the pages are thick and soft from repeated handling, there may be intriguing personal inscriptions made by strangers....Needless to say a couple of special specimens insisted on coming home with us.

We then took the remainder of our unwanted books to the local charity warehouse. This particular place has a good collection of old chinaware - which I'm also a fan of. I discovered a beauty - an old English cup and saucer patterned in a white and navy oriental design. Maybe its because I used to have a casual job in a department store selling new homewares (which I came to despise) but the used variety have so much more appeal for me. They have a bit of character, or soul if you like. A story to tell.

I used to pride myself on not caring about 'things' - I equated this with being 'anti-materialist'. I think thats why, as I've said before, I'm notorious for trashing and losing my possessions. But the realisation I've come to is that while we shouldn't lust after what isn't ours or let our things define us, we should care about them. Material goods are made up of the Earth's precious resources, and should therefore be treasured. As Colin Beavan writes in his book No Impact Man, "Our problem is that we see the material - and the associated planetary resources - as base and trash it, treating it as though it has no divine value". Food for thought.

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