When I was in Italy, in Lucca I was with a friend, walking – fast and I saw in my periphery, for just an instant and through a wrought iron gate a small courtyard with a door. After which, in probably the most awkward way possible, I stopped and did a physical double take. I had to stop walking, walk back for a second, head probably cocked like an idiot, and go stare.. At a forest green door. If there’s a list somewhere of mannerisms or behavior that markedly labels one instantly as a tourist, the top of that list is probably stopping and walking back to look at a door. It should be known that all of this was instinctual, as if sort of on auto-pilot. The reality of it was that I was really sort of grabbed, in a way, by a odd sort of magnetism that was strong enough to have me do a physical u-turn in public.

The door was embedded within an ancient brick wall, recessed slightly, as if  in the process of being swallowed by the sort of internal energy had by the wall, a sort of seething as if something inside of it was alive, that seemed to push out certain bricks farther and strip others of the darker shades of red had elsewhere. The door had on it a circular golden doorknob carved with the face of a lion. In front on the ground, to the left of the threshold was a very small pair of red tennis shoes. A very old looking broom leaned against the other side, against the brick. A straw-gold light filtered downward from the right of the courtyard as the side wall stopped it cut the space acutely in half, illuminating the slow hovering swirl of dust particles in the air.

When I say that I was grabbed, it was in a way because of the recognition of what these things meant as I strode by. This understanding of what I had seen surely occurred only within a fraction of a second, but it was enough to physically create the urge to return to it. Observed and processed in an instant came a gripping truth:

I want the life that these things suggest.

An epiphanal irony came about out of this. It was a very simple sort of equation in that somehow, door + wall + shoes + broom + light became a profound brand of primal yearning that was mixed with the bitter knowledge that they all, belonged to someone else. Like seeing a beautiful woman on the street, draped around the arm of another, it suggested that the picturesque simplicity of these objects was already a part of the life of someone else inside. It suggested that those tiny shoes came off of an owner who couldn’t have been more than two, and that he must have  parents who actually have legal claim to the house, to the broom, and depressingly by extension, my dream.  Instantly, I wanted to rend myself from the static trajectory of planned foresight that was my collegiate career and instead- have the owners of that house, after a knock, find a young American guy ask them in broken Italian how much they wanted for their house. Ludicrous, desperate thoughts arose soon of never getting on that plane home, of where and how I could get a job even somewhere in the vicinity of it, living in town even if I couldn’t actually have the house.

It is a very curious thing that we should put ourselves into objects. That we should first look upon an object in space, a pair of small shoes, an old door, and in it see some part of ourselves – something we value, something that adheres to the core of us as a person – and then that we should want to put ourselves into it. We do this – we see ourselves interacting with it, using it and deriving sustenance from the continual communion that was surely found from having it. It is, this thing at its core, perhaps then one of the most beautiful to us in existence. It has a direct connection to ourselves that feels almost palpably real in its ability to have us imagine ourselves around them.

The life more ideal for everyone, I believe is absolutely surrounded imaginatively with objects. It’s for some a British country house, in the Arts and Crafts style, with a garden, being tended by our wife of sixty years as it was only purchased finally in old age after a lifetime of hard work. It is a New York penthouse, surrounded by stainless steel, and an Eames chair looking out of the 78th window and a Basquiat on the wall. Lives, careers, – maybe countries and civilizations have been build on the simple human ability to imagine a better life.

But again within another great irony comes the eventual understanding that the more perhaps we try and encapsulate beauty, the further we really get away from it. Looking now, (and maybe understanding myself only that much better since), I would know that even if I had that house, and I had found a job somewhere in this tiny medieval tuscan town, I would come home probably many days, frustrated and on the verge of being fired because of something like an inability to speak to a customer. I would return at the end of the day, with a flick of the wrist and a push of the shoulder throw open that door in frustration, taking no note of the lion on the handle, or the texture of the brick. I would only feel an inadequacy and probably a great homesickness. How is this possible, that the very thing that inspired my imagination around it, physically be able to turn me around initially – could later do nothing to assuage the storms that doubtlessly come about as a product of this life?

After grappling with this, I come to believe that objects that we attach ourselves to, only confirm an already extant appreciation for the things that make them beautiful. They affirm that appreciation, sometimes instantly, but only because we carried it somewhere within as a part of us already. If I could have it my way, it would be through that lens of appreciation that I would approach everything, understanding that the world is as vibrant as I only allow it to be, in a large way, as vibrant only as I intrinsically am.

That word vibrant has two very interesting definitions. The first, according to Oxford is, something:

1. “full of energy and enthusiasm : a vibrant cosmopolitan city.”

and then,

2. “quivering; pulsating.”

This is illustrative I believe in both ways. When something vibrates, it emits into its environment a sort of frequency. Should it be with such an intensity or fast enough, it will carry, reach other objects and have them vibrate similarly. This is impossible, however, unless the source is already oscillating on its own, prior to ever reaching the object. It becomes apparent at that point, that because I was in a place that I loved to begin with- that my internal disposition was, for a moment, aligned with the offerings of the things around me, that I was able to open an eye to the offerings of the object. They were allowed to vibrate, resonate back with me in a way that was emotionally profound.

Which means that these objects that we call beautiful, these reminders of how we are able to see the world more perfectly provide something that advertising can never claim to, a deeply rooted knowledge of an intrinsic appreciation within us, a knowledge of the energy of the stuff of life that makes it something beautiful. As we find these things, they become a sort of road map,illuminations in the ways to more fully take stock in the smallest of things that surround us. This then becomes our charge, to appreciate the things that surround us now, looking at them for the ways in which they speak to us as objects of our affection. Simultaneously, they charge us when we find them to push out the boundaries of what we consider beautiful, to continually find ourselves ready and resonant to receive the ways that they might speak to us.

This then, is undoubtedly the life that I am learning to live, that I want to live-  and in some small way, undoubtedly the life that I am living.


~ by crossmd on September 13, 2011.

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