Essay

On The Life of Things

A meditation on the world of stuff.

Photo: Frank Lindecke via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

They are all around us —always on the verge of oblivion.

In the course of a single day we come into contact with a lot of things we don’t seem to appreciate beyond their immediate functional value. Things like plastic shopping bags, styrofoam cradles, shrink-wrap and bubble-wrap, colorful candy bar skins and disposable lighters. They are all around us, yet seemingly meaningless, always on the verge of oblivion. Once they have fulfilled their function, delivered their payload, so to speak, they are discarded (or replaced) as if they never existed.

Fitter, Happier, More Productive

It has often been suggested (and is even a kind of cliche by now) that in order to become better people we ought to be more in touch with nature, by killing fewer animals, eating more plants, drinking more tea, etc.

Maker In the Making

Whereas nowadays factories churn out an endless maelstrom of stuff based on market demands, there used to be a time where individual products were crafted for individual needs. For example, when you wanted a new suit you needed to go to a tailor, when you required a new table you had to contact a carpenter and so on and so forth. The artisan then went to work on your order, crafting a new suit or piece of furniture, and — over the course of many days, weeks or even months, the creative process forged a bond between the maker and his creation, up until the point where she may even have been a bit hesitant to finally let go of her work.

Everything is Disposable

It’s very rare that we interact with things today which were fully created and gently coaxed into existence by one human being from start to finish. Most of the things we buy and own can be easily replaced, and as soon as the next, better and faster iteration along, we gleefully abandon their predecessors.

We adopt and drop world-views like disposable coffee cups.

For example, where our grandparents’ generation was often subscribed to a certain religion or ideology for a large part of their life, we don’t seem tofind this kind of commitment anymore. Today, someone may be an atheist, tomorrow she’ll be a Vegan, then straight-edge, revivalist, Buddhist or venture capitalist, depending on the current peer group and what is trending on Twitter. In short, we adopt and drop world-views like disposable coffee cups.

The Vortex of Virtual Space

Instead of idealizing and romanticizing the past — which certainly wasn’t always better — or trying to proclaim some new form of frugality or environmentally aware lifestyle — which is fine— let’s ask a different question entirely.

via giphy

Born in Germany, currently living in Israel, André Klein is the founder of learnoutlive.com and author of various books and short stories in English and German.