Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Home in Arkansas

I don't know if any of my readers have been missing me, but I was away for nearly two weeks, first at Marc Adams School and then in Omaha, Nebraska, helping to clear my mother's house to be put on the market. It is absolutely amazing how many small objects a person can accumulate in a lifetime, and when over 40 years are lived in a house, and 4 children had been raised there, the personal effects can be overwhelming. Many of the objects were things my sisters and I had made in art classes, and my mother, too, had been an accomplished artist and writer of children's books, so closets and drawers were heavily laden with supplies. We spent days going through letters, even finding some from her kindergarten teacher days that revealed the admiration felt for her by the school staff, parents and students.

Evidently, getting rid of personal effects following a death in the family is a challenge that many people face, and there are companies that will come in and do it for you, recycling all your stuff through auctions, sales and the city dump. They might turn your parents' estate into useful cash. Or not. In American plains Indian tribes, families would give away all personal possessions at the time of death, distributing any valuables among friends. And that would not be a bad idea for us.

Objects are both blessing and curse. Our landfills are filled with useless, broken or meaningless stuff for which we may owe the Chinese for generations to come. And so, what is the real value of stuff? It is clearly not in the having but in the giving and making. When you give something, you express something important of yourself, generosity. When you make something, you take part in the development of skill, arising to a higher level of character, confidence, capability and intellect.

Last night I was invited to make a presentation to the Omaha Woodworker's Guild during their monthly meeting in South Omaha, and two members brought segmented turnings for show and tell. Objects of the kind they displayed are obvious in their intellectual content, and it is of vital importance that schools, parents and children begin to understand the value of object-based expression of intellect. The true value of objects is that of fostering educational enthusiasm and the expression of intellect. Make it and sell it or give it away, thus making room for renewed growth.


  1. Anonymous6:12 AM

    You were missed. Welcome back.


  2. Anonymous1:04 PM

    Yeh stuff. It's like all my tools. I've collected and I am giving them away to fellow woodworkers. Records giving them away too. Books donating them to the library. I have thought alot about stuff and it just drags you down. I want to have only enough to throw in my camper van and live each day like it's my last day here on earth. We are such hoarders thats why storage locker companies are spring up all over the place. We are all guilty here in this country. Now we mostly hoard. Stuff does not make you happy. It's like a noose around your neck. It's killing us and the planet too.

    Scrap Wood