This was clearly an event for a crowd I only vacation in occasionally, usually wishing that I could find a way to stay longer. Just like real vacations. And, just like in real vacations, my quick glimpses into hippie-ville are interrupted by these things called REALITY. And RESPONSIBILITY. And sometimes LAZY.
The hipster went on for while until he was interrupted by the extremely dramatic entrance of a man quoting poetry in his loudest voice and from the back of the room. He sauntered in, yelling words that nobody was listening to because none of us were quite sure whether someone else had called security already or whether nobody had called security because everyone had assumed that someone else had.
This is why I always call 911 when Glee comes on TV. I never want us to fall in that "someone else is probably taking care of this" trap.
As it turned out, the dramatic reading was part of the show. This shouldn't have been a surprise as mere moments before this occurred, the musician had tied a long wire with bells around the entire audience, claiming that he had somehow bound them with love.
This was clearly one of those shows where nothing makes sense but you're supposed to act like it does or risk looking like you're too mainstream to have depth.
So I pretended to wipe, like, a thousand tears during the course of the night. And at one point I took my pants off and told everyone to embrace "expression." Then I hurried and put them back on because even though I was among hippies, it still felt inappropriate. You guys. THIS WASN'T THE PHARMACY!
The experience was fine, overall. And I swear I caught a few glimpses of Bob and Cathie circa 1976 in the crowd. They were the ones with flowers in their hair and a surprisingly disturbing ability to lie to children for purposes of their own entertainment. Hashtag faked deaths.
Then this blogger got up and started talking about how he doesn't own anything anymore because things are destroying us and we're all hoarders and if you buy anything you might as well go straight to Hell but here's my new book and you should pick one up on your way out.
I actually did get inspired by some of what he had to say. And I politely nodded and muttered a few supportive "amens" because I think I'm in a Baptist church in the south at all times.
He had a point about the whole "stuff can never make you happy" business and how we can all benefit by creating experiences and memories instead of accumulating things.
But then he said something that totally, absolutely, did not resonate with me.
He said that many years ago he found a box at his mom's house full of his school work from his childhood. He opened it up and "realized" that his mom had kept these things for the memories. But memories aren't bound in things. Memories are something internal. The things are irrelevant. So the box of his school work was a waste of space.
I'm not sure whether he said that he threw that box out or not. I kind of got distracted by the point he was trying to make. Because the point was so inconsistent with my own experience.
I understand that memories and feelings are internal. And I believe that objects prompt different emotional responses in different people. But to say or imply that things are irrelevant because they don't contain the memories feels like, pardon my French, not true.
Things may not contain the memories. But they prompt the feelings and emotions in me in a way I don't think would be possible without the things.
That's why tears came to my eyes when my parents gave me a framed painting my Great Grandpa Hinckle did in 1968 and that's why I feel a flood of warm memories rush over me when I look at it now as it hangs on my dining room wall.
That's why I feel and experience a real and solemn reverence every time I pick up this small stone sitting on my bookshelf, which stone I picked up off of the scorched Maidan streets in Kyiv Ukraine last year just a few months after the fighting moved East from that spot.
That's why I smile every time I see the Christmas card my Queen-Noor-loving grandma sent to me, hanging crooked on the front of my fridge.
That's why I suddenly think of and appreciate all of the coming-of-age experiences I had in college when I see the copy of Moby Dick a former roommate gave me in 2004. A book I still haven't opened to this day.
That's why I get chills sometimes when I open the roll-top desk I saved from destruction several years ago, which desk Cathie used with dedication as she plowed her way through college despite some nearly insurmountable opposition and extremely limited finances. And that's why I feel inspired so often when I look at it now as it sits, ragged and worn, in a bedroom in my old house that is full of nearly a century of memories I don't even know but that I care about just the same.
I get it. The accumulation of things is not as valuable as the accumulation of experiences. But I don't mind accumulating things that are made valuable by those experiences. And when I'm 102 years old, I'll be that decrepit man who has been wearing diapers for seven decades, pulling out shoe boxes full of drawings of The First Eye and seashells collected from Palauan beaches. I'll dust off birthday cards from people who died fifty years before but never stopped affecting me. And I'll delicately handle the poem I hand-wrote in the second grade.
I'll tell the people around me that everyone dies, but not everyone lives. And I'll let the things that I've kept and respected and preserved be part of the proof that I lived.
And hopefully my family will forgive me of my nonsensical lamp-hoarding problem in light of the sentiment.
~It Just Gets Stranger