My mother is a hoarder. Not a terrible hoarder like the ones seen from the Aetv show “Hoarders” but there are a lot of stuff in my garage that could be done away with. In fact there are even stuff that are mine that I should probably throw away like old books, middle school trophies, old IDs and photos and yet I find it difficult to throw these things away. I mean why is it so hard to discard old things? Why do we tend to hold on to these objects even long after they have served their purpose?
In articles written by Prown, Czikszentmihalyi, and Belk, they all acknowledge that objects and culture, go hand in hand, one way or another and older objects tend to give us an insight into the past. In the Mather-Lepawsky article, they suggest that objects have a birth, life, and afterlife. Although the article doesn’t emphasize how exactly a cathode ray tube has a birth, life and afterlife (they’re obsolete now so there is no afterlife for it) the concept of inanimate objects having human characteristic like life and death has actually been studied for centuries among philosophers and and physicist alike. I know it sounds crazy to believe that this computer that I’m blogging from will react if I hit it for not working, or that the desk that I’m using is alive, but in some cultures this is actually not crazy at all to think.
The idea that all matter has a consciousness is called “panpsychism” and it is a term mostly used in quantum mechanics. In the arcticle “Do Objects Have Thoughts and Feelings” by Tara MacIsaac, she cites that in some native american cultures rocks are viewed as having consciousness i.e. they are aware that they are being moved from their resting place. But rocks in itself have a life and death process. If you remember form your fifth grade science class that rocks start off as hot magma, then it cools, and then it becomes either metaphoric, sedimentary or igneous and because of erosion, rocks break down into sediments. During the cycle sometimes little particles of matter, like insects gets caught in the process and when you break the rock down sometimes you get a fossil of the animal that no longer exists.
But going back to objects, particularly the ones in my garage, I kind agree with Mather-Lepawsky’s concept of birth, life and afterlife among objects, not in the literal sense. But I can’t discard those old books even though I’ve long read them and they’ve served their purpose. But what actually happens to books when you throw them away. Are they reused and recycled and become more books. Then we just have this never ending book cycle. To think that our text book was probably once a horror novel or something. Even the old photos of my pre-school years won’t get discarded because even though I can’t remember the names of my classmates or what they even look like, that’s still a memory, a little history of my past. I think that’s what Mather and Lepawsky are getting at-objects start from some where but where do they end? Who gets to decide how they end and why? Objects like the cathode tube are man-made but they also have have their own story to tell.
In the end I do believe that objects have a beginning middle and end. They may not be alive but they came alive through human innovation. I think, like our multi-modal project we should think of our objects as little insights to the past. A little piece of history. But instead of thinking of them as inanimate objects from the past we should of the objects as in their afterlife-there to teach us about their life.
Sources: “Do Inanimate Objects Have Thoughts and Feelings” Tara MacIsaac theepochtimes.com