Valuable in some way.
January 12, 2014 § 4 Comments
Our daughter, Josie, would hold out her hand to show us her latest find: a shell, a nail, a dozen small red cardboard discs. “Are these valuable in some way?”
She never asked if something was undeniably valuable, just whether the object in her hand had any value at all.
It turned out that everything was valuable “in some way.”
With thought and imagination, the red cardboard discs became “salami rubies” and for days we bartered them for things of more obvious worth.
But for humans, abundance has caused that thrifty intelligence we once relied on to atrophy.
This is my grandmother’s button box, passed down to my mother, then me. In it are buttons that once closed the fly on my grandfather’s long Johns, and a showy button from an Easter coat I wore in ’67.
All were saved because, through reuse, they would become valuable again. A 1967 button still works. You just have to sew it to something and stitch a buttonhole for it.
Around here, we keep screws in jars, and re-washed plastic bags in a kitchen drawer. Do this with enough commitment and you offer yourself up for public humiliation on a TV show about hoarding.
But the instinct is still good, especially if you consider the alternative, which is to commemorate our time here with garbage dumps filled with things whose value has been forgotten.
Unlike those who lived in times of scarcity, once an object is separated from its purpose our first instinct is to throw it away.
Check out your neighborhood curbs on bulk trash day. You’ll see a high chair that is still serviceable once given a good scrub, but for its owner the value is gone because its occupant has outgrown it. And a set of book shelves too big to stick in the car when the owner moved. And a vacuum cleaner in perfect working order, only it needs a new cord.
Maybe when abundance is as bloated as it is today, nothing has value.
In a world of too-much, why would we expend time and energy looking for the value of things for which we have no immediate use?
But finding value is a form of respect, not just for the objects we put to use, but for ourselves. Are we ingenious enough to reuse? Can we make things last?
There are too many of us to continue discarding what has no use in the moment.
This planet? Is it valuable in some way?