Saturday, 12 September 2009

E-Day

It was E-Day today. All over the country collection points were set up for gathering old bits of electronic junk together so that they can be recycled. So I gathered my bits of electronic junk. I laid the back seats of the car flat, opened the basement doors and began to move back and forward like an ant at a picnic carrying treasures from one spot to another. I filled the car. Filled it! It was piled to the roof and I had four large banana boxes on the front seat beside me. There were four Commodore 64s and three Atari STs dating from the mid 1980s. There were monitors and PCs and bags of old, nameless cables and power supplies. There were boxes and boxes and boxes of floppy disks. The people at the recycling station were fairly impressed with the quantity and mystified by the machinery; after all, they were mostly students doing a day's worth of community service and some of the stuff I gave them was manufactured before they were born. Today I dumped stuff that I had once yearned for, and bought and been pleased with. Stuff that had been carefully chosen after reading the brochures and visiting the showrooms. Stuff whose merits I had vigorously argued against competing brands. Stuff that was worthless and useless today, and, if the truth is known, on the day I acquired it. These bits of plastic and wire will be shipped to China and dismantled and melted and turned into other stuff which will be lusted after and bought and used and shelved and discarded all over again.

The recyclers took it all, PDAs, dot matrix printers, and video boards, and families of mice but left me with the disks. Apparently old floppies have little recycling value. So, I went home, hooked the trailer filled with old gardening waste to the car and drove to the tip, where I put the decaying green matter into the compost and the blue plastic squares into the landfill.

I stood on the edge of the concrete ditch and threw them by the boxload into the air, watching them fly and crash and scatter onto the floor. Games. Data files containing bad poems and half finished stories. Games. My doctoral dissertation and the program I had used to write it with. Games. Parish magazines and sermons and back ups of stuff that, once upon a time in a universe far far away, had been crucial. So many hours of work and thought; so many wasted moments, so many hopes and triumphs and losses all there, and all released back into the nothingness they came from: old ideas going the same way as the old bits of electronic hardware. I don't know why I hung onto all that junk for so long.

A few years ago I made a private retreat in a house by the beach. One evening, after a day of fasting and prayer, I walked up a hillside and saw the still water stretch out beneath me in the dusk. In a small moment I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the place until I ruined the moment. I tried to photograph it, to record what I had seen and felt. Of course I failed. The photographs were pretty enough, I suppose, but they caught nothing of the sense of eternity which had opened in a moment and disappeared again as quickly. The important stuff; the really important stuff can't be captured and kept.

There is no other reality than the present. The past has gone and the future is not yet here, and all we have is this singularity, this infinitisimally small pinprick of consciousness continually held in the tension between them. We take photos and hang onto the crud from the past and cling to momentarily useful ideas in a vain attempt to preserve the present but of course the very effort is futile. In as much time as it takes for us to notice it, the present has turned into the past and is gone. It is a wonderfully liberating thing to know that and to just let it slip away; to discard the rubbish means to be a little bit freer of the non existent past and thus be just that much more able to savour the present.

3 comments:

Merv said...

Kelvin,
Your penultimate paragraph, especially, is profound. You have put into words what I have (very) occasionally experienced.
But although momentary & fleeting, are these treasures from the past really gone?
Your memory of the moment has allowed you to share it with us. Is it still there now? Has it changed you in any way? Are there others like it that you hold in a very special place? and that you return to now & then?
Just wondering .....

VenDr said...

I'm not sure if this particular experience changed me, but certainly others have. I am most interested in that thing which is almost impossible to describe and explain: consciousness. Consciousness is a purely subjective thing. it can only be felt from "within" and experiences like the one at Doctor's Point are part of it: subjective, only experienced from within, unable to be truly transmitted to another person, unable to be recalled. Yes, I think a memory of past experiences does remain in our present consciousness, but they are not the experience itself.

I have strong memories of particular experiences - of what I am not quite sure, but I call it pure joy - which happened at various times in my childhood. I was always delighted when one of these episodes happened, and although I can, even now, remember something of the feel or tenor of the experience, I can't conjure up the actual experience itself or anything like it. More's the pity

Peter Llewellyn said...

It was a sobering discovery, if learning something from an episode of CSI New York qualifies as a discovery, that the cost of sending ex-toys to China for recycling is serious health issues for the children who are posted to the piles of bits, in order to pick out useful sources of cadmium, mercury, lead and worse.

There is a pile of such toys in our back shed that we would really like to give to better homes, but hesitate because we would rather not kill any Chinese kids.