boon-dog-gle: (noun) work of little or no value done merely to keep or look busy.
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2/23/06

one man's junk...

I'm something of a pack rat. My wife cannot understand why I'm compelled to keep old, seemingly inconsequential junk. I don't understand it myself. Sometimes I'll have a fear that if I get rid of something, I may want it later and then I'll regret not having it. More often, I form strong emotional attachment to things based on where I got them or some event or person associated with them. For some reason, this happens quite often with clothes. I have all kinds of ratty old clothes that my wife is itching to get rid of, but which I won't let go. Maybe it's not 'spiritual' to have that kind of emotional investment in material possessions. But, it's not like I would save them in a fire instead of my wife or something. And, my connection is usually more with the emotional association than with the object. So, question #1: What do you have that you would be sad if you lost?

And that question leads me to the thought I had which originally led me to write this post. Since we're moving in about a month, we've started packing, but of course we're finding plenty of ways to get sidetracked as we box stuff up. One way my wife got sidetracked was to sort through some old pictures for a new picture frame she got. She created a nice 'national parks' themed frame. In one of the pictures--I think from our honeymoon--I'm wearing a Notre Dame hat that certainly fits into the category described above. In fact, it is probably the example par excellence.

I bought the hat in the 3rd grade from my friend Rick Magni for $3.75. We--the hat and I, not Rick and I--have been through a lot of life together. When my best friend in junior high school, Michael Nolan, and I used to play tennis together every day, all day, during the summers, I always wore the hat. He had a tennis court just down the street from his house, so we would play all morning, have lunch at his house, then play again until dinner. During our lunch break, we would both put our soaking-wet-with-sweat hats in his freezer while we ate, so they would be nice and cold when we resumed. For many reasons, that sounds disgusting to me now, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. Later during high school, I was a cross-country and track runner. I wore that hat to every single practice, and I never washed it during the seasons. By the time the district meets rolled around for each sport, that hat could probably do a few laps of the track on its own. Then during college, I spent a lot of time in Colorado on family vacations and a few trips with friends. I was wearing the hat each of four times I hiked to the peaks of 14,000 ft. mountains. On top of all that, I've had a lifelong devotion to Notre Dame (thanks Dad!), both its athletics and academics. No matter what the state of affairs is with Notre Dame's teams or whatever, that hat was always a testimony to my longevity as a fan.

Unfortunately, I have no more recent memories to write about. I no longer have that hat. I lost it. I don't know how or where. And I can't even pinpoint when. I can't remember if I've had it since we moved to St. Louis four and a half years ago or not. I actually think about the hat more often than when I have occasion to see a picture of myself wearing it. I wish I still had it and I could still wear it. I mean, it's not like in a movie; I'm not sitting on a bench at the end of a pier staring into the distance with a single tear dripping down my cheek. I just want my hat back. Some of those memories and stories are a little less real because I can't see or point to the hat as a memento. Thus I ask you question #2: Is there anything you've lost that you wish you had back?

While this is a bit of an obvious attempt to generate more comments than usual, I am also really curious what some of you might have to say. I think there are some potentially interesting and peculiar responses out there.

5 comments:

Suzanne said...

Nick forgot to mention that everytime he thinks about that hat he accuses me of throwing it away. I didn't.

Mark said...

That kind of thing doesn't bother me so much now, as even necessary things seem like a nuisance to own.

There really isn't anything I would want back.

I was thinking maybe the things I would be sad to lose would be things that relate to relationships--like my guitar I've had a lot of fun playing with the church musicians (strangely, it seems relationships must be related to a activity or task like this).

Losing things because of malice or hatred (theft, throwing a candy bar in the dryer to vandalize one's clothes) directed at me also is not good, although that's more a why than a what.

Losing all of something is bad, like all of my clothes, where I'd feel humiliated and incomplete (can't avoid thinking about Christ here).

And then losing things that are part of me, like bones, kidneys, and people. That would be hard.

But all in all I don't think the art of losing is too hard to master (cheesy Elizabeth Bishop quote).

W Sofield said...

I don't really have trouble losing things. I used to have trouble. I think it helps to give things away intentionally.

I had a great dream in high school to become a great musician, songwriter, etc. for the Christian music industry. I had a decent keyboard for a while that I played with. By the time I got married, I never played it, but moved it from place to place. Finally I gave it away to someone who would have fun with it. That was hard. I have many stories like that. I've given many of my books away, those were hard, too.

Now, I think I'm much better at understanding that we love people and use things, rather than use people and love things.

Heart change leads to changed actions, yes. But also, changed actions leads to heart change.

nickg said...

Boy, the verdict is in...I am unspiritual.

Maybe I didn't do well to communicate my main point, which is summmarized by a statement I made toward the end of the post: "Some of those memories and stories are a little less real because I can't see or point to the hat as a memento."

Of course, I am an overly materialistic person; I grant that, and I pray that does change. But really I was reflecting on how memories, emotions, and (as Mark pointed out) relationships can be tied to objects. It's not so much losing the object that's tough, but losing a bit of the experience asssociated with the object.

For instance, I have a paperback set of the Chronicles of Narnia that I was given around my early junior high years. I've read through them literally dozens of times and the stories mean a lot to me. Now, I could see myself giving that set to a kid or whoever I thought might get a lot of joy out of them. But, I'd rather buy the kid a new set, because there's something about THAT set that means more to me than just what the value of the books are or even the value of the stories. I guess that's why I chose the example of a ratty old hat that I bought for $3.75.

I said: "Maybe I didn't do well to communicate my main point." But, maybe you guys understood me the first time and you just disagree / have a different experience than me. That's o.k. too.

Mark said...

I did understand you...I deleted the first part of my post, but then I forgot to change the new opening, so it sounds like I'm dismissing your sentimental attachments as being "that kind of (materialistic) stuff," when I'm actually referencing something I deleted.

But I think attachments to things because they have a sort of personal history is totally legitimate.

That said, I think you have more of a thing for specific objects than I do--my brother is the same way with hats--he can have a hat that is ancient, tattered and loathesome to the whole earth, but if it gets lost he'll drop everything and search the whole house for hours.

But unspiritual? Do I get the impression that the guy in the parable who is going to "tear down the old barns and build new ones" is planning a barn for old Notre Dame hats? Not really.

G.K. Chesterton...

"The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people."