The Importance of Physical Objects

Out of all these objects, the rubber band ball is the most important.

Out of all these objects, the rubber band ball is the most important.

When I was a kid, we had a green chair that I would sit on when I got a haircut. My dad would always cut my hair, and the green chair was where I sat. I loved that green chair.

Once, when I was in the breezeway of our house in Pontiac, Illinois, I tried to jump over the green chair. It didn’t work, and I cracked my head on the cement floor. I was taken to the Emergency room and given two stitches, with no anesthetic. It was crazy.

I still loved the chair.

It’s striking me lately that Betty is about the same age I was at when most of my memories start. I know that things that are happening to her now will stay with her for a long time. She’ll vaguely remember our old house, and the fact that we moved. She’ll remember sitting in her car seat, remember playing in the park. She most likely also has an object that means as much as her as the green chair.

Because it wasn’t just a green chair, it was The Green Chair, an object of importance that far outweighed its mundane origins. For me, it was a symbol of something ineffable, held with as much reverence as a Bible or a flag to the devout and patriotic.

I had several such objects growing up. There was The Hairbrush, The Green Cup, The White Blanket, The Cross, The Key Lamp, and others I’ve since forgotten. They were all near-mystical, and I find it no coincidence that I was enamored with The Lost Room when I first saw it.

I think as we get older, objects begin to lose their power. There are so many, and there is no time for reverence as things become more and more disposable. I’m trying to recapture that feeling, buying less and honoring the things I have. Getting handmade stuff rather than mass-produced things is one way to do it. Actually meeting the person that crafted the object is another.

Yesterday in the park I met a man who made his own boots. I remarked that they looked as good as any I’d seen in the store. As I said it, it struck me that I’ve grown up with the concept that something that’s been mass-produced by a machine is of a higher quality than something a person made with their own hands.

That can’t be the way it’s always been, can it? I see in my mind’s eye a man examining the first boot ever to come off of an assembly line . He’s squinting, turning it this way and that. “It’ll do,” he thinks. “Not perfect, but it’ll do.”

Jennifer and I have been buying things on etsy.com a few times now, and I really enjoy the things I’ve gotten. I got a brass hatband and a t-shirt. They both mean something to me.

It struck me also that I don’t make actual physical objects that often. In my work, I mostly send words to other people electronically. My book is pretty much digital information until it gets printed, and even then it’s not made by me, but by a machine somewhere far away. I guess Skwaz and Chupamono are the closest thing to physical creation in which I’m involved, as they’re put on paper with a pencil.

So, today, I’m advocating the creation of physical objects. Not trash, not throw-away objects, but good solid objects that are meaningful and durable. Objects that can last and *should* last. If the ethereal world of ones and zeroes ever disappears, they’ll be nice to have around.

NOTE: I originally misspelled “etsy” as “esty,” an error which has since been corrected.

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About paulgude

Paul Gude writes small books, makes stupid music, draws silly pictures, and does weird things on stage.
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2 Responses to The Importance of Physical Objects

  1. Lex Vader says:

    I’m just trying to figure out why Jones Soda has their own brand of 9-volt battery.

  2. Annie says:

    It’s actually their carbonated candy – funny, it does look like a battery though.

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