Friday, February 03, 2012

Object permanence

This was written last fall... and never finished... but I thought it better to publish than toss.

Must be fall.   Er, well, almost.

Yellow taints many of the tree leaves here, and the mornings are cold and damp, even when it reaches 80F by early afternoon.  Despite the warm weather onset of flies, I long for a wood fire in the furnace (a wood stove would be better), and the smell of woodsmoke in the air.  Sometimes, I get a whiff of it rolling down the valley from one of my neighbors.

And still, we swim and play outside and take walks and get hot, while the task list for the impending school year expands and multiplies and seems to explode all over my brain every time I get to thinking about it.

Yesterday, as I dug through piles of laundry, I began to think about our relationship to stuff.  I know that some of us are find it easy to ignore possessions, although most of us retain a thing or two that brings a state of nostalgia to our hearts.  And others of us hold on to things for some inexplicable reason.

As a child, I clearly remember thinking that all I owned had a spirit, a set of emotions, and that they keenly felt it when I left them out.  I obsessively kissed each of my dolls and stuffed animals the same number of times every night, not wanting to hurt anyone's feelings. Although this didn't transfer to books or clothes (much), I often felt overwhelmed by the sense that there were feelings floating in the air all around me, some animate, some inanimate, and that I was responsible for how whether those feelings were sour or sweet.  Seems crazy, now, when I think about it, but as a child it was completely logical.  If we are responsible for someone's feelings when we hurt them, we must be responsible for the feelings of everyone/everything around us, right?

Yet, I was barely old enough to be responsible for or understand my own emotions.

I must put forward the background note here, that I recognize that as an adopted infant it is likely I had some hypervigilance  and trauma-based senses at work here as well.  Attachment to objects beyond what is reasonable as a substitute for biological family... blah blah blah.

Yet as a society, we recognize object permanence as a stage of childhood development.  At some point we begin to recognize that if we hide a toy under a blanket, it will not go away.  As we age, we begin to recognize that if our beloved adult walks out the door to go to work, they are coming back.  Unfortunately, this sometimes burns us when our beloved doesn't return, but most usually, it is the beginning of trust as well as an understanding the objects do not cease to exist when we no longer keep our vigilant eye turned toward them.

But where does all this connect to the ideas of desire for objects, need for nostalgia, deep connection to things, the need to gather and hold and retain consumerist pieces of "stuff", come from?  Why do some of us feel responsible for our objects, rather than these objects holding some responsibility towards us?

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