Tuesday, April 20, 2010

When is a raven like a writing desk?

Friday night, my friend Matt and I were perusing the furniture at West Elm. I happened upon a desk that I loved and, tah-dah, it was on sale! Only $200! This seemed like a pretty fantastic price for a desk that bordered on perfection, especially since I'd been doing some shopping online and found not a single desk I liked at such a decent price. I couldn't buy it at the moment--I had no way to transport it home. But I left the store feeling elated and excited at the prospect of a new, fabulous desk.

About one minute after leaving the store, I felt sad.

I told Matt that buying any item that costs more than about $20 often makes me feel sad. I still felt elated and excited about the desk, but those very emotions were already stirring within me feelings of hopelessness, disappointment and depression. Buying stuff--especially really awesome and amazing stuff that I love--often brings me in close contact with the temporal nature of the physical world. I start thinking about all the awesome and amazing stuff I've purchased in the past and how I either neglected it, broke it, lost it, or loaned it out to never see it again. Next thing you know I'm contemplating my own death and the mound of stuff I will inevitably leave behind.

I don't think I'm going to go back and get the desk.

Stuff generally depresses me. People have commented that I rarely buy stuff for myself, and my response is that this is because stuff stresses me out. I once read something by C.S. Lewis that said we should not say we "love" stuff like pens or computers or shower curtains. He said that it demeans love. We like those things. We love living beings--people, animals. He didn't have to tell me twice. Any time I've become convinced that I love an object, I know what's coming. I'm going to feel some level of indescribable loss. I'm not going to really be able to pinpoint why it is that I feel this loss in that moment. I'll think I should be happy. I'll think, "I love this thing, and I have it. Why am I not happy?" I will not be happy because, ultimately, what is an object but a momentary stimulant? I can love a person even when that person is not with me. I can love a person even when that person has let me down. I cannot love a desk I've owned for six months even if it is sitting right in front of me. I'll enter the room and leave the room and I won't even notice the desk I once fingered with joy a week into its first arrival in my house.

Then I will hate myself for being an ungrateful bitch.

But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I love the desk even more when it's just part of my daily experience, a beautiful object that has become entertwined with my life to the point that we're being together. Maybe I love the desk even more when it's not just an object to admire but instead becomes an active object, an object that exists with its own purpose, does it's own thing. Maybe really loving something only begins when all that infatuation with it ends.

A woman I used to know used to say that she would always leave people after she'd done her three songs and dances. Once she'd run out of her three songs and dances, she figured they wouldn't find her interesting anymore, and if they didn't find her interesting, they wouldn't love her.

Maybe I should go back and get the desk.


  1. Please get the desk. And I'd like to see pictures of it too.

  2. Aww. I am a certified shopaholic. I love stuff...more than some people. Tis sad I know. But I also get on soapboxes about "stuff" and "things" and throw all my prized possessions out and start over. I'm weird like that.

    I don't wanna peer pressure you but I'd get the desk. It's nice to have nice things and sometimes you deserve them...

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