All of us possess objects with stories. The ordinary items that fill our daily lives become more interesting as we ponder the narratives wrapped up in them. In this way, an object or artifact symbolizes something that’s much more than just the object’s outward intrinsic nature. It is this “hidden” value that’s preserved for years.
As we move through our lives, the memories we form, from the mundane to the profound, become associated with our five senses, like the cliché of the smell of fresh cut grass unleashing past memories of summer days; And while the senses of sight, sound, taste, touch and smell are powerful triggers for the mind, so are the objects we surround ourselves with.
Our possessions accumulate meaning as our lives unfold around them, and the result is often a lifelong attachment to particular items that provide a portal to the past and a wistful reminiscence of cherished moments. These may be things we have lying around the house for decades, from furniture to seemingly insignificant items, the point is, they are imbued with the owner’s personal set of memories.
Memories are our past and future. To truly comprehend a person is to understand what they have been through, and unless someone has consciously decided to leave the past behind and turn a new leaf, past events deeply influence what we will do in the future. Memories are also personal and often intangible; shared memories may vary when one event is experienced by two people with different perspectives, however, a memory shared by two or more people presents less variations when it’s linked to a particular place or object.
All of us possess objects with stories. The ordinary items that fill our daily lives become more interesting as we ponder the narratives wrapped up in them. In this way an object or artifact symbolizes something that’s much more than just the object’s outward intrinsic nature. It is this “hidden” value that’s preserved for years. Through a personal association, even plain everyday objects can gain subjective meanings based on precious memories that we have of them. Through these objects, memories are catalogued, guarded and revisited. So, it’s no surprise that many people are fond of keeping objects or articles of furniture, with no more reason than that it has been imbued with special meaning.
So what makes us ascribe value to ordinary items, and what do our possessions reveal about us? PBS pondered these questions in a documentary entitled Objects and Memory: “Without the objects, the stories would lack vibrancy; without the stories, the objects would lack significance. Taken together, the images of the objects, the memories they evoke and the stories of their collection take the viewer on a journey where the commonplace is transformed into the remarkable and where the stuff of history is highly personalized.”
Imagine an expectant mother relaxing peacefully on her bed on a grey Sunday afternoon. Fast forward a few months to young parents bringing their new baby home for the first time and setting him down on the same bed to become acquainted. A few years later, the baby is now 3 and a new infant sleeps in a crib next to the same bed; then visualize the bed being reassembled in a big new house for the growing family. This quality piece of furniture has become a part of the narrative of these people’s lives
In this way, while each person who interacts with these objects can add new meaning to them, the interlinking of these memories gives the object or article of furniture its “soul” which is that special “something” that sums up the essence of that object. With time, this object, ceases to be simply an object, but rather, becomes something of significance, at least in the eyes of the owner.
As American mythologist Joseph Campbell once wrote, “Life is without meaning. You bring the meaning to it. The meaning of life is whatever you ascribe it to be. Being alive is the meaning.”