Saturday, December 21, 2013

Being and nothingness and things


"She thought of Giacometti, shocked out of domesticity for ever by an early confrontation with death. It began with a chance, brief meeting on a train with an elderly Dutchman. [...] They planned a journey together to Venice, but had scarcely set out when the elder man fell ill and died. Giacometti was twenty. The horror he felt on seeing the transition from being to nothingness would never leave him. In the face of certain annihilation, the clutter of domesticity was, to him, a monstrous lie. Why pretend life is anything other than transitory? Why pretend you are anything other than utterly alone in your existence?" 
(Madden, Deirdre: Nothing is Black, faber and faber, London 2013, p.109)

I have a difficult relationship with 'things'. Seeing interiors that reflect my taste, even collections of things, I can imagine happily inhabiting spaces filled with objects without perceiving them as a burden, and to a certain extent I do so in my house/sanctuary, but at the same time I always crave the freedom of less, and even the relatively small number of my own belongings can overwhelm me, for reasons expressed in the extract above - though I should add that my own view is nowhere near as bleak.

I do derive pleasure from new things and presents and adhere to the 'beautiful and/or functional' criteria (I include 'loving it' under 'beautiful'). And I have noticed that often it is simply a question of feng shui: the dead energy of things I need to let go of that are sitting somewhere with no purpose. Once they are gone, new things are welcomed in their place and used with enthusiasm.

Over the years I have acquired a couple of gadgety items that I like (a handheld blender comes to mind), but overall I keep them to a minimum - as a magazine article I read recently (in the new mindfulness magazine Flow my sister brought back from Germany) said, they can make life more hectic, despite their time-saving claims: when you expect every chore to be sped up or done for you, you don't give yourself the time out to do the task at hand and let your mind wander (or, even better, become absorbed in the task). I may whinge that my arm is sore from whisking egg whites sans kitchen machine, but it is much more satisfying this way.

A few days ago I sold a painting, and mixed in with the usual delight at having someone value what you create was the relief of 'one less painting taking up space in my house'. Art-making always means a lot of objects (both materials and creations), so the secret part of me that wants to be able to move around freely unburdened by material possessions would never be able to coexist with the artist me.

Apologies for the slightly depressing tone of this post just before Christmas (maybe brought on by the sheer quantity of things the pre-Christmas period spews out. Apart from that I love Christmas). I guess it is about traversing this strange transitory existence with these "necessary" lies, as the protagonist in Madden's book calls them, and which can give us security, but in the full knowledge of the truth, and not be weighed down by either. I am trying.

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