I have decided to use the rising wave of panic I’m feeling at having to organise and pack up all my worldly possessions to help me overcome the lesser panic of blog avoidance. I have a mental list of ‘blogs waiting to be written’ that has been generating excessive pressure somewhere in my frontal lobe and occluding the flow of action to the finger tips for quite some time. But now the fear of packing has surged on through and I’m running type across the screen as if there were no tomorrow. At least it is a temporary respite from the circular path I have been treading around my workspace stopping to stare in long intervals at one pile of disorder after another.
Looking back over the spotty history of this blog I notice other such moments – can’t pack, blogging. There is also something about having to sort through the accumulated detritus of ones life that lends itself to a ponderous state of mind. For example, why is it that I tolerate certain habits of attachment and not others? My collection of fabric scraps, patches and buttons that I insist on dragging around the world with me, occasionally replacing one scrap with another, but rarely using. And the Thai oboe I bought 15 years ago in Bangkok and never play? The box of audio cables and adapters that seem to get used more often by friends than by me? Why not the items of furniture, or ‘objets d’art’ that other people seem to hold onto? I guess the simple answer is that furniture is usually too big and art, well who needs it…
But more interestingly I start to construct a psychic self-analysis based on my material attachments. There is a great book that I read for a class last year called The Comfort of Things (Daniel Miller) that constructs ethnographic ‘portraits’ of people based on the way in which they relate to their material possessions. Ever since then I’ve been wishing that the author would do the same for me – it was such a fascinating perspective on the way in which we construct ‘selves’ and relationships with others through our things.
Apart from the small personal things that I keep (like kids drawings and cards) most of the things that I hold onto are ‘useful’ – they have the potential to be activated in some way, or made into something else. And they are fragments of places I have been, clothing I once wore, projects I have undertaken. They are elements of a narrative that have the potential to be reanimated, or woven back into new narratives, new ‘doings’ in the world. And they are small and portable – they are bits of the world easily carried along on new journeys. Other life props (like furniture) are easily acquired and discarded back along the side of the road as the need arises.
The nature of my attachments also have much to do with the patterns of relation to the material world that I established as a child, when the sewing box provided hours of entertainment and there were always musical instruments lying around to be fiddled with. Furniture for my poor and (in the early years) peripatetic parents was also something that you came by rather than chose, or got too attached to. The decor and furnishings changed every time we moved and always felt somewhat extraneous to the action of living there.
I would like to think that one day in the not too distant future I will stay somewhere long enough that my collection of useful, and used, objects will sediment into something more conventionally recognisable as home. Although I fear the overabundance of empty plastic containers and bottles which even now accumulate faster than functions can be found for them.