22 December 2011

New Clothes and Imminent Demise

I purchase things. Of course, I buy foodstuffs for our meals. As a result of my long-term stint in New York City I learned to buy only sufficient materials for today’s meals and to maintain in the home a small selection of snack food, the latter a miscellany that grows smaller as I grow older and my personal furnace less efficient. Mostly, I buy what I immediately require, an as I grow older I require less. I enjoy the daily shopping, and thoroughly relish consuming what I have purchased as some evidence that I live!
I do continue to buy many books that I continue to read: the UPS delivery man (yes, always a man) and I remain somewhat familiar, and he inquires about the latest read. Of course, I buy gadgets, items I consider might make my life more organized and less rigorous; compact discs; and small furniture items that I often must fumblingly put together myself. I control my infatuation for the former and try to keep to a minimum acquisition of the latter. These parcels are delivered by a variety of postal services, but I especially like when the UPS man motors up the driveway in his big brown truck. He knows to whom he delivers what waits within his vehicle. I don’t enjoy shopping in stores, and so much that I purchase outside of daily provisions comes from purchases from catalogs. And there even is not a little of my baking supplies that I order, as they say, on-line.
Ah, and I buy clothes. This type of purchase is subject for another time, but I note that when the clothes arrive I put them in my closet and refuse to wear them. These new products accumulate, entombed as it were, in their plastic wrappings. And when I go to dress myself and survey the collection, I inevitably choose an older garment rather than the newer one. As I purchase a new sweater, I note the moths have been enjoying the old. I have of late been considering what motivates this obsessive compulsion not to wear the clothes I purchase to wear.
And I think it is partly this: if I open the package and put on the new item, it immediately begins to become worn and will soon, alas, wear out. But if I don’t put it on, then the article of clothing remains inviolable and will last forever. Of course, the assumption here is that I will last forever, as well and one day will wear the new garment. The refusal to open the package serves as a charm that wards off death.
Freud speaks of this phenomenon concerning memory. Freud notes that as long as the Pompeian artifact remained buried under the volcanic ash, it remained preserved, but once it was recovered in the archaeological dig, it became subject to decay. So with memories: when I do not think upon them, they remain untouched, but as soon as they are uncovered, these memories are subject to the natural effects of the present, and then they become, if not inaccurate, then certainly unreliable. In a related sense, what is forgottenwhat remains unconsciousis unalterable and unvarying, but it remains, of course, unknown. It is not remembered.  Memory here may be unknowable but not without influence. It undergirds what I think I know and determines the contour of consciousness. But what is recovered from memorywhat is rememberedis immediately subject to a ‘wearing-away.’ And unearthed, memories are subject to natural erosion and decomposition, and the reliability of such memories becomes suspect. All memory, then, must be already a fiction.
            When I do not wear the new shirt, it remains useless but pristine. Its lines stay smooth, sharp and straight. Trouser seams continue uncreased and the colors unfaded. The new shoes bear not a trace of the ground on which they were meant to walk: they will last forever. I imagine how good I might look if only I would step outside in my new shoes. I sigh and put on the older, worn pair, and save the new shoes for a brighter, sunlit day. Ah, but the feet for which I purchased them will continue to scuff and bruise regardless of the shoe, and soon the new shoes will be no longer appropriate. Nor might they any longer fit my feet.
And I consider that it might be also true that I fear that having used and used up the new item, no others will be forthcoming and when the garments with which I presently adorn myself wear out, I will stand naked and hungry out in the world but for lack of reserve.
Zuckerman says “We are all in the power of something demented.” I say, is it only one thing?


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