Do you sometimes get the feeling that everything around is so ephemeral, that everything can be thrown away and there is nothing to really hold on to?
Two days ago I threw away a wooden cage I use to transport my parrot Jeremy. I have had that cage for 45 years. In that time I have used it only about half a dozen times to move Jeremy. It was taking up space in my new shed and it had to go. That was one of those rash decisions made in a fit of pique. I regretted immediately I threw it away into the large bin in the waste disposal place. I took a picture of it as it lay there among the rubbish looking forlorn. I have been grieving since. The cage was made when Jeremy was just a baby by my father-in-law with loving care out of plywood, with a small perch on the inside for the bird to sit. It lived with us and moved with us along with Jeremy and now the only material thing I have from that long ago time is gone. I do believe inanimate objects acquire a certain something when they have been used by humans over a long period of time. I think the word for it is “Barakah”. It is defined as a spiritual power possessed by certain persons or objects. A contemporary word for Barakah which is near enough is”homey”. Homey means comfortable or familiar, like home. There! I threw away an object which gave some solid feeling to my life, an object that is as old as my parrot, an object that connects me to an older generation; a generation which made hand crafted objects.
I am at present in the process of decluttering my house and no doubt I shall regret throwing away some things but none so much as that old wooden cage which is of no material value. That is what I mean by having something solid in your life.
When we are young we work ever harder and do not have time for such luxuries as objects with “Barakah” in them. We fill our houses with ever newer objects and throw away the old. But the time does arrive when you get attached to certain things that bring you memory from long ago or to objects that are beautiful in themselves only to your eyes. You wander around your house relishing the objects that give you comfort. It may just be an old sofa which over the years has molded itself around your body; it may be an old stubby pencil which (God preserve me, I still keep) you used to check inventory as the goods came into the loading yard fifty years ago; it may be an old leather wallet your first love gave you which has grown fat and oily and supple with age.
Over the years I have watched an increasing gap develop between the most expensive objects I posses and the most valued objects I posses. The expensive objects have increasingly turned out to be slabs of plastic and glass that have to be renewed every three years. The valued objects turn out to be that old stub of a pencil with all the memories of work camaraderie or that 1933 Leica of outrageous beauty which I am lucky to possess. These are objects of no financial value or of very little financial value. This begs the question: what are we all striving for, after all If when all is said and done, at the tail end of your life you look back and take stock of your worth; and you ascribe more value to a stub of pencil than you do to your latest iphone, what in God’s name is life all about?
Why do we store mountains of cash in those virtual temples of Mammon for computers to perform their nightly orgies? Why do we work so hard unless you consider work to be the be all and end all of life? I don’t know the answer. I was young once and if you had put that question to me then I would not have understood what you were trying to say. Every generation has to learn in its own way. I am thankful I have the distance and leisure to stand back and ask these questions of myself. And, of course to have the luxury to grieve over my lost parrot cage which now would be crushed to pulp along with all the other wood that was thrown away that day.