Thursday, January 18, 2007

Shiva Shambho

Many of my most prized possessions are other people's cast-offs, items passed down through the family and inconsequential purchases. Aside from childhood, there has not really been a time that I've been caught up in the frenzy of consumerism -- needing a particular item to feel worthy or to enhance my place in the world.

One of my favorite CDs is something I purchased as an afterthought. I had been given a gift certificate for a funky (and now defunct) little gift shop in Salem, OR. After picking out some trinkets for my wife and a few bumper stickers for my truck, I was left with $5 or $6.

I looked around. Nothing really caught my eye. Finally, I decided to include a bright colored CD in my haul. When I got home, I put the CD on a shelf.

It was probably a week or two later when I decided to give the CD a listen. It captivated me completely. Though I understood nary a word of any of the "songs", I listened to it over and over again. In fact, of all the various CDs in my collection, I listen to this one more often than any other. All this happiness from an inadvertent purchase.

I remember as a child that the things I wanted more than anything else for Christmas never held that kind of lasting effect. I'd rip open the bright wrapping paper to behold my "must have" toy or sporting good. It would be the object of my attention for a few days, then get tossed into the closet to gather dust.

More often than not, it was the small and inconsequential presents (the ones my mother thought I would enjoy) that I used and cherished until they wore out or frayed beyond recognition.

In adulthood, a lot of my now favorite artifacts and every day items were purchased at garage sales or thrift shops. Others belonged to my deceased grandparents or mother. Whether from my family or someone else's, they have a long history that I continue to build upon. They aren't as glitzy or modern as a new item fresh out of the box, but their time-worn edges and grooves feel comfortable in my hands.

Ruminating about these things reminds of a story a woman once told me. She was a new mother who had a disabled child. She would often sit in despair as she watched her young son struggle to move around. He was born with a malformed hip socket and was forced to wear heavy and cumbersome braces until he was 3 years old.

While other children the same age were first learning to walk and then running around like little banshees, her little boy continued to crawl, dragging his bound up legs behind him.

One spring day, when the neighborhood children were running around with glee, she became teary-eyed as she thought about what her young boy was missing. All of a sudden, she heard a loud crash -- like the entire contents of her pots and pans being dropped on the floor. With visions of disaster streaming through her head, she flew into the kitchen.

There was no disaster to behold at all. The little boy she so worried about was happily banging the pots and pans, having the merriest time. You see, since the little trooper couldn't play with balls, tricycles and the various implements of childhood fun, he had appropriated for use the few things he could reach. While to the naked eye he was playing with pots, pans and lids, to him it was like a giant toy box with interesting shapes and sounds.

From that day forward, the young mother never again worried about what her child might be missing out on. She learned the valuable lesson that joy comes from within and that curiosity and spontaneity are far more important than things.

The woman who told me this story was my mother and that little boy was me. I think it goes a long way toward explaining why I can feel great joy in a 25 cent mug purchased at a garage sale or a certain CD purchased as an afterthought.


1 comment:

  1. Hi Trey,

    It's good to hear from you again! This post reminds me of my current situation, the process of change I'm going through. I find myself getting rid of consumer goods (mainly CDs and DVDs) that I once considered must haves, and I find myself going second hand for more things or questioning whether I really need them at all.

    I can't help feeling that Freecycle will be the way to go eventually.

    I found the end of your post insightful, that we can happily have fun and amuse ourselves in the light of our own nature. Just because we're not doing what others are doing, it's not a cause for concern.


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