The Sadness Of Objects

It is strange that objects can engender such powerful moods. Whenever I move house or sort my things to reduce clutter I have found that objects can be bringers of eerie and unplaceable sadness. Sometimes other moods too, but most often, sadness.

I suppose that it is the triggering of old neural networks. Those dusty pathways and patterns in the brain representative of memories – perhaps they were not meant to be triggered so soon and so roughly. They are resentful, I think, and they rebel with sad thoughts. Recollections of a happy but transient time. Words and hours and sunlight and days, all bound up tightly with something as plain as an old beach towel or a pair of hiking shoes.

I used to be a hoarder of objects because of the memories they triggered. Mostly, this was a behaviour I escaped when I escaped my teenage years. Before then, I used to experience a sort of fear that if I threw away any treasured object from childhood, I’d lose all of the memories associated with that thing. I was afraid of the fallibility of my own power to recollect.

I suspect I was right. I did learn to let objects go in the end, and I’m sure memories have been lost too. It is difficult to know… how can one be sure what one has forgotten? I expect there are a hundred memories attached to toys and childhood objects that are lost to me now that I have long since disposed of the object. But surely the memory must still exist? It is not lost, so much as hidden.

This  brings me to one of the great strangenesses of memory. How is it that a memory can lie dormant, as it were, for years and years, only to be triggered later? What physical state, what strange arrangement of neurones, does a memory occupy, that this can happen? Shouldn’t a memory need to be refreshed from time to time? Do legions of once-important, long-term, dusty memories persist deep in my brain, inaccessible to me because I don’t know the right thought-paths and triggers to get at them? How many onion-skins of memory might a person have? How many hidden recollections, one beneath another?

I don’t have an answer, and I don’t think I even have a sensible end for this post. But there you have it. That is what has been occupying my mind over the last day or so, the sadness of objects.

About Christopher Johnstone

Christopher Johnstone lives in Melbourne
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