Earlier this week a friend lost everything he owns in a fire in Toronto. It's been quite the shock to everbody. At the same time, people are really pulling together to help him out. It's funny how through the magic of the internet our generation is redeining the meaning and scope of the idea of "community". It's a bittersweet truth that tragedy really does pull people closer together.

If you'd like to help out Alex, please visit Jessica's blog and click the donate button.

People who have commented about the fire or have had similiar experiences have been commenting on his and my sister's blog about what they grabbed on the way out. Everybody seems to say that either they grabbed the family photos, or they wish they had because they missed those the most.

Maybe I'm missing something here. I mean, I would hate to lose all my things. But they're just that: things. The cost to replace everything I own would be brutal, but ultimately they're all physical possessions that won't mean a thing in the long run. They're all replaceable, mostly dispensable things. And I don't see my photo albums as being any different.

I have certain possessions that have emotional significance attached to them, and I'd miss this things. Things like the Teddy Bear I've had since my first birthday, for example. But my photos would be the absolute last thing I'd be upset about losing. To me a photo is a visual reminder of a memory. But the memory, to me, is more important than the photos themselves. Photos are images printed on pieces of paper - more useless material possessions that take up space in my closet. And while I can take or leave the photos, I can carry the memories and emotions with me for the rest of my life. If I want to remember a family vacation from 10 years ago, all I need to do is close my eyes and think back to that time. My memory of events may have changed, but our perspectives and opinions on things that happen to us change all the time, and I don't see that as a bad thing.

Maybe I'm just being far too practical here. Maybe I'm just an insensitive jerk who doesn't get it.

But moreover, I'm fascinated by the idea of being able to rebuild my life from the ground up. Our lives, memories, emotions and friendships are what make up our being. Those aren't tangible things you can lose in a fire. Material posessions just fill the up space and time.

What would I save if there was a fire? Bobby, my teddy bear. Which of my things would I miss? All of them, for a while.

But like a I phoenix, I could rise from the ash. The fire would purge the clutter, and afterwards I would have a chance to start things fresh. Why dwell on the past, when I can look forward to the future?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Depends on the person and the nature of the possession. Even small, inexpensive things can mean a lot to some people. Things and places might anchor a person to the past and losses of these can be very hard to cope with. Witness old people shuffled off to a care home with a suitcase and a few pictures and clothes. It devastates them. I have seen it.

But hey, we're all different.