Archives mensuelles : mars 2016

The Broken Plate -or- Reflections on Mortality

broken plate

Treasurecraft-USA plate circa 1960’s; long-serving cookie dish and wedding gift to my parents.

Everything in and of this world is transitory, including the world itself. And yet! We would become attached to people, to things; and in becoming attached, wish on them a certain immutability, that the objects of our love and affection would remain, unchanging, somehow immune to time’s ravages.

How else to explain why we hold on to things? Objects rich with meaning, symbols of bygone times, places and people. A baby blanket worn to tatters; a faded corsage; a plate.

We understand that people die; we experience and mourn the deaths of people around us: a grandparent, an uncle, a parent. We observe ageing in our elders and then in ourselves. It is inconceivable to believe that one might escape this most tyrannical rule, that we must all one day breathe our last breath.

But objects, by their very unchanging nature, can  be deceiving. They trick our memory back to the time and place in which they were originally employed. And while the people and places may no longer exist, the object itself persists, a witness to past events.

When a plate breaks, it is not just the loss of an object that we mourn, nor its relative usefulness. It is all that particular plate encloses: the hands that once manipulated it, that washed and put it away; the cakes and meals that were served on it; the talk and laughter that were carried on around it as it lay on the table with its offerings. We say goodbye at once to the object and secondly, more deeply, to all that it was witness to.

It is after all, only a plate. And the wisdom of sages tells us that our attachment to material objects is unwholesome. So I will take this plate and carry it out to the trash. It will be buried and forgotten, one more piece of the receding past that will be lost forever. One more step towards letting go.