The explicit and the hidden

It’s notable that so much of that which make us uniquely human remains hidden until we die. Metaphysical strands and threads invisibly connect us to each other, things and events in which we had a part, stretching through time and space often unacknowledged and unseen.

There are the strands of possession, the web of legal relationships that pertain to ownership and debt. Between us and these many things — held by contract or simple affection — threads of attachment, desire, and sentiment bind us; valuing “things” comes with strings attached. Our shoes, our shirts and all our clothes; our nail clippers and favorite scissors; our pots and pans and every dish; in short all the accumulated treasures and detritus of ordinary life are lugged along behind us, silently tugging while tugged. All must be dealt with, as those of us who browse estate sales know well.

There are the strands of personal relationships, the ties that bind hearts and minds. Unlike shoelaces, screwdrivers and baseball caps, relationships are not material in nature, but delicate yet strong threads of feeling, some taut and tensed like steel cable and others loose, soft and yarn-like. These too tug, though not always silently. Upon the sudden loss of someone close and dear, a loved friend or spouse or child, the tug becomes a painful yank that tears and rends and wounds and heals slowly, if at all. Every November I recall the passing of my father, mother and closest friend; each changed the season of my heart.

The strands of possession and relationship outlive each of us, at least to some degree. For people of remarkable accomplishment threads reach out to total strangers and in time become a semi-permanent cultural fabric woven of myth and genealogy. We know not what myths of our time which will be told five thousand years from now, but assuredly they will recount the taut and frayed strands of present possessions and relationships. George Washington was our first President; he may be a god by 2513.

For most of us, however, the threads will fray and in time and completely disappear. To whit; I examined an old panoramic photograph of a 1947 Movie Industry Pioneers Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria among my late father’s possessions. Towards the back of the room, at a round table with nine other tuxedoed men, all strangers to me, I spotted my grandfather. His upturned face was just a quarter of an inch or less in size, dwarfed by the expansive ballroom and its many hundred guests, but easy for me to pick out. I am now among the few alive who can recognize him; when I’m gone his face will recede into the mass of nameless men in tuxedos, and the curled-up panoramic photo itself will cut it’s last thread and become trash.

Nothing is permanent. The people and the moments, all the stuff we love and things we hate, our meaningful experiences and those we don’t even remember — all fade like shadows at sunset, once crisp and colorful, and then “poof,” they’re simply gone. This great cycle is the spinning wheel of the mythological Three Fates, one who gathers, one who spins and one who cuts the thread.

It has been ever thus. All is as all should be. Stay healthy and enjoy the New Year. It’s good to be alive.