Ex Die in Diem


Objects of Importance

Some small number of the things I own aren’t just things: they are more important than that. I recall telling a colleague of mine recently that I have a simple three-level hierarchy in my life: there are the things I love, the things that work fine, and the things I don’t care about at all. For instance, I love my watch, my computer works fine, and I don’t care about my clothes. I’m almost certainly misremembering that conversation, but I’m the one telling the story, so it’s my version you’ll get.

I do not love my watch because of its intrinsic value: it tells time well enough, but so does my phone, and the clocks scattered about the places where I work, live and spend my time do as well. Also, I’m still not entirely sold on the concept of time. I mean, it definitely passes, and is a useful variable in scientific experiments, but why on earth would we all need to know how much of it has passed since a non-existent, annually-averaged version of midnight, or rather, one hour before that actually occurs, because it’s summer, and that means we can’t even use the excuse for the “real time” that we use in winter.

Apologies: that rant got away from me a little. Where was I? Oh yes, the watch.

So it tells the time fine: not brilliantly, not terribly, but fine. Telling the time is basically the only function of a watch, so I suppose the thing is essentially a good example of the class, so to speak. This is not a recipe for love, however. I love my watch, as I mentioned briefly yesterday, because it was given to me for my birthday. My eighth birthday. By my Grandmother.

Quite aside from the wonder of a child of that age managing to hold onto a birthday present into adulthood (which I did by using the cunning technique of losing it, allowing it to be found by a concerned parent and kept in a safe place until my teenage years), this present is precious because it is irreplaceable: said grandmother died more than a decade ago, and the watch is a lovely, everyday keepsake of the woman who first schooled me in the art of making tea.

Things like this are the physical weft of our life stories; in conjunction with that unreliable warp of memory, they weave the fabric of our lives. Without the things to spark reminiscences, the memories more easily fade, and without the stories of those things, they become mere objects, found in the bottom of a wardrobe or the back of a drawer, waiting to be discarded by people who are blamelessly ignorant of their meaning.

I wrote yesterday about the things I choose to have with me, and I suspect that as with the contents of most people’s pockets, those things are a mixture of the mundane necessities and secret talismans. Don’t let your talismans lose their meaning: share their stories as you go.

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