If I scrape my life clean of all significances, then I would tell you that I spend my days shifting black and brown spheroids and cuboids from Point A to Point B, draining them of their contents of multifarious shapes, forms and colours and dispersing these around the inside of a large rectanguloid.
I have, in other words, moved house. Which means the setting in place of a small number of utilitarian objects, such as beds and a vast number of non-utilitarian objects to which I am emotionally attached. I could justify my need for many of my possessions, but I won’t as I am (I hope) sufficiently ‘spiritually evolved’ to know that my justifications would largely not be true.
Moving house is an opportunity to re-assess – and ‘cleanse’ – one’s life. I have thrown some things away, including a bag of nondescript stones collected on Lindisfarne earlier this year, but I’m still hanging on to ‘stuff’ with little value in themselves, but to which I am attached.
So I decided to inspect a few of these items to see if I could find out why I cannot bring myself to throw them away. The first photo is of an ugly little china candlestick. As you can see, it’s in the shape of a witch’s head. You can buy these anywhere ‘as cheap as chips’. I bought two in fact. You’re meant to use them at Hallowe’en. I broke one last year. I never used either. I don’t celebrate Hallowe’en.
The second photo is of a china house. The third, of a blue mug with ‘North Carolina‘ written on the front. Neither are particularly handsome.
What did I find when I asked myself why I hang on to these objects?
Yes, you can buy the witch-head candlestick just about anywhere in the western world. But I bought mine in Salem, Massachusetts. Salem is well-known for its 1692-93 witch trials. I’d taken myself off on a trip to Boston and discovered that Salem was only 30 minutes away by train.
The china house is supposed to represent a Dutch town house. One time, KLM (Royal Dutch) Airways was handing them out to passengers as gifts. As it was a two-way trip, I ended up with two. I was singularly unimpressed by this gift – until, months later – I noticed the chimneys were waxed shut. Curiosity led me to prise off the wax stopper of one of these gifts and I discovered to my great delight that the house was full of Schnapps!
The mug was fetched back from North Carolina. It too has its stories to tell.
In each of these objects, then, is the potential for story. Storytelling goes back to the Dawn of Man, when the only form of communication was by word of mouth and gesture. Stories were used in religious ritual, for education and as a means of spreading news. Stories explained who we were, where we came from, how to behave. Tellers told of how the world was created, destroyed, of epic heroes and gods. Story then, is not just for entertainment, but for important stuff like enlightenment and for healing.
Viewing my useless objects in this light, they are raised to the status of stories-in-waiting. I won’t be finished with them until I’ve drained them (like the Schnapps!) of all of their stories, then re-told them for the purposes to which they have been shaped.
I’ll never run out of story material, that’s a fact!
- Idea: dig out your ‘useless’ objects. Ask them what stories they want you to tell.
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