Archive for » October, 2015 «

Temporary permanence

There was a time when machines were built to last. Year upon year of unnoticed and uncomplaining service was provided by any machine worth its name. The manufacturer of my mother’s sewing machine had not quietly set a date by which it would stop working.  Things weren’t built to require replacement within one, two or three years – as is now the intention of makers of mobile phones, computers and motor cars respectively.  Today’s throwaway mentality is deliberately fostered and then reinforced by having products seize up anyway, by the date considered reasonable by the maker.  Only those who produced light bulbs did this in years gone by.

Those not brought up in the today’s culture expect their car or computer to last forever and are taken completely by surprise when it packs up. We think these possessions remain ours until we die, as do our house, property, furniture and mementos. These latter articles give us the quiet confidence that they are there for us and we can go about our life taking them for granted. Computers, phones and motor cars no longer provide that reassurance. It is comforting to feel that a house, a land, a table or a book will still not suddenly die or have to be discarded by an expiry date.

We probably tend to assume that the things we like or love are by their nature permanent and only an unfortunate mishap can wrench them from us. It is hard to invest intense emotion on something that is clearly temporary. Our attachments are rendered permanent to make them secure and comforting. The unthinking perception of permanence regarding precious possessions applies to people and places too.  This may in some ways be justified, for the loss of loved possessions, places and persons is never total. They always leave remnants within us: memories, feelings and other traces. The remnants we preserve may indeed be considered permanent.  Nostalgic memories attached even to motor cars and sewing machines in an earlier era. These are unlikely to be matched by similar recollections of today’s versions – ever more transient and made to be discarded with no feeling. There remain no remnants in memory to render lost loves permanent within us. They too are now despatched with the valueless object.

Loved places and people too may gradually be losing their hold. Lovers and friends disappear at the press of a key, only to be replaced instantly by many others that pop up – seeking attention, chat and other sharings. Such ephemeral ‘friends’ come and go, incapable of leaving those treasured and haunting vestiges within us. Encounters of a different kind altogether.