The Love Affair, Else-where Part I: People and Things
I have always been fascinated by the relationship of people to things … .
Or more correctly my fascination lies with the way people relate to things: to objects in the world, places and spaces. We invest so much meaning in the things around us, and develop large and elaborate webs of connection between us-and-things, between-things, between things-and-places … and us. On one level, this is (of course) a completely sensible way of understanding the world we perceive around us. We are creatures that rely on our sense perceptions to find our way in the world and make connections and associations between things and our selves – on a fundamental level, this is in order to survive. But this is merely surface. What intrigues me to all distraction – and strikes me as far more vital as a route of inquiry – is the emotional and psychological idiosyncrasy of humans to associate objects/things, places/spaces with a much deeper relevance. It amounts to an investment in the phenomenological world that speaks to the need for understanding and connection far beyond simple sensory input. The human being in the world needs to understand itself as part of a network of connections and interactions that provide sustenance to memory, to the sense of belonging, to community of one description or another.
We see this investment mirrored in language, too: a house is not a home, for example. The phrase “back home” can mean a geographic region, a particular town or city, or a building at a specific address – but in all cases, the emotional notion of ‘home’ is embedded in our understanding of the place/space to which the reference is made. An interesting exercise: begin with the word home, and make a list of other words you associate with home, as quickly as you can. How many entries on that list are names of physical objects? How many are descriptors of emotions? How many of the physical objects named evoked emotional responses, memories, connections of all kinds? In the end, where did this exercise take you mentally and emotionally? If you’re anything like me, you’re left with a fairly extensive, contradictory, and somewhat ambivalent set of words and associations – but for all of that ambivalence (or perhaps because of it) it’s one powerful list.