Saturday, November 6, 2010

Beauty Breathes: Object Permanence

Beauty Breathes: Object Permanence

This week there was quite the kerfuffle at the place where I earn a living when my cell phone and two of my co-workers wallets were stolen from our offices in broad daylight while we were down the hall in a meeting. I knew exactly where I had left my phone before going into the meeting—in fact, I even had a powerful flash of intuition that I should take it with me, which I ended up ignoring—and when I came back and saw that it wasn’t there, I knew with immediate and total certainty that someone had stolen it. I wasn’t even that surprised, although the idea of someone skulking through our offices and pocketing valuables was extremely disconcerting—especially since I suspect that we were being watched for a period of time before it happened.

One of the first things that we always hear victims of natural disasters saying (quite bravely and appropriately) is that material objects can be replaced, while people can’t. While this is true to an extent, I think that it undermines an important truth of the human experience—that we have an innate ability to attach to, and grieve the loss of, objects. I faired far better than my co-workers did in this theft—for some reason, my wallet wasn’t taken during the sweep, and my phone was replaced the next day. They’re still dealing with shutting down accounts and filling out fraud reports to recover significant financial losses (those thieves worked fast). From a purely practical standpoint, most daunting part of it for me was managing the 520 rush-hour commute without my beloved podcasts to distract me from my road rage.

Still, I find myself mourning the loss of the old phone. I had an emotional attachment to it. Mr. Typist and I made a big step over a year ago to move to smart phones, and we got them refurbished to save money, but we were very happy with them. I had it with me during my trip to San Francisco last year, where it helped us navigate the unfamiliar BART and bus systems. It was with me during my 40th birthday trip to Vegas. It was my lifeline during big work events, my comfort when I needed to hear the same two Tallest Man on Earth CD’s 87 times in row because he was the only singer who truly understood my pain. And, it was my gateway drug to my podcast addiction (I’m currently subscribed to twelve, and am trying to cut back, with no real success.) That phone was my friend, and I miss it. I feel emotionally invaded by its theft.

Contrary to popular spiritual beliefs, I think that an attachment to material goods is actually healthy. We imbue our personal energy into our possessions. Our emotional and spiritual vibrations inevitably attach to the things that we own, and if those things are in our physical space and vibratory space, they do, in a sense, become of a part of us—absorbing our thoughts, memories and emotions.

One of my co-workers whose wallet was taken was upset in large part because her wallet itself had great sentimental value to her. It wasn’t the right time to ask, but I imagine it was given to her as a gift by someone she cared about. I imagine this person choosing the wallet with love and thoughtfulness, and my coworker receiving it with gratitude. We are both far as from rabidly materialistic as you can get (I haven’t replaced my TV in 11 years and have an 18-year futon for a couch), but the object loss itself was emotionally difficult for us. And I think that there is a kind of beauty in the fact that as human beings we are capable of feeling a sense of loss around what are undeniably replaceable “things.”

I’ve always felt safer having nothing to lose. I actively avoid the pursuit of “nice” things, as they can be taken away at any moment, and I’ve always had a horror of owning too much (being from a family that moved frequently, I developed a fear of being weighed down by objects early on). But over the last several years, I have grown to develop a sense of discernment around object value; being more willing to commit to owning objects that I find genuine value in, and being more accepting about having feelings of protectiveness around my personal property.I think that mourning my stolen phone may be a step in the direction of healthy object attachment.

--Kristen McHenry

For tips on basic office security, visit: http://www.cscc.edu/Publicsafety/office.htm

Image by Debie Gasio

1 comment:

Dale said...

Yes, I think genuine attachment to material goods (as opposed to attachment to status markers)is quite rare nowadays and quite valuable -- a humanizing influence in a number of ways.