Friday, January 15, 2010

Possessions and Permanence

I have a hoodie that I have been wearing since sixth grade.  It recently occurred to me that this hoodie has been in my continuous possession for far longer than anything else I own.  Everything else I have is either fairly new or has spent several years sitting in a closet or bookshelf while I was away somewhere else.

I am very cold-tolerant, so I rarely require cold-weather gear.  I use the hoodie as my winter coat unless conditions are extremely cold and wet.  I wore it all through Europe while I was studying abroad.

When I first got it, it was like a cloak on me and it was black.  Over the years, it has gotten smaller, more faded, and more worn out.  During this past cold snap, it finally started to fail in its job of keeping me warm enough.  I am now wearing a larger, newer, thicker one that I had hanging in my closet and forgot about until recently.  But I will not throw away the old one.

The hoodie is older than most of the cells in my body.  The average time for cells to be completely replaced is about seven years, but there is a lot of variation.  There are a few nerve cells that stay around a long time, but aside from them, almost every bit of my actual flesh has been replaced at least once in the time that I have been wearing the old hoodie.  It is the only physical constant in my life, my only material link to the past.

Of course, there are a lof of old toys and books and mementos from my childhood that my parents have in their house.  But those things have not lived with me.  They are like archaeological relics, fossilized remains sitting in a museum.  The hoodie is something that has always been with me and has always been used.

Think about your possessions.  What do you have that is like this hoodie?  What thing of yours has been in constant use for the longest time?  My uncle has an old sports car that he treasures, driving it on most weekends.  But for most people, there may be nothing like this.  All of the things that they use in their daily life come and go very easily, a fog of disposable possessions to be replaced without much thought, just as our body replaces its cells in a constant cycle of renewal.

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