Thinking About Things…………..

By Bernie Bell

A friend sent me this link, to something which she found to be of interest…

Michael Landy Breakdown

motorbikes B BellI had a look at it, and I get the idea – I think!  Things are just things.  We surround ourselves with them. It is a basic human need though.  Right through time, look at almost all cultures – humans appear to need to have things – their things, around them. Sometimes to help them to feel secure, sometimes even to help them to feel that they exist – that they are ‘someone’. I

It’s a shame when it goes that far, but, sometimes, it does. There aren’t many cultures where they simply don’t hang onto possessions – some Nomads – Australian Aborigines are one exception. And what happens when they don’t say “This is mine”  ?  Unfortunately, then they are sometimes seen as being ‘no-one’,  having no land, no place, and so others put up fences and attempt to circumscribe their way of life.

For example, a few years ago, as part of the Science Festival, the !Gubi Family, who are part of the San People of the Kalahari Desert, came here, and I was talking with a woman who is trying to help them not to be wiped out by the changes being forced on them by the way of life of the more settled ‘Settlers’. You could have a look at : Indigenous People.

I’m thinking of the things which are being found at the Ness of Brodgar, and the things which are found at many ancient sites – humans just like things

Thoughts about the drain, discovered at the Ness

It’s not just Sky-stones,

Carved Balls,

Painted Walls.

It’s the basics of life.

Making, Breaking.

The fragments which can say so much,

To those who pay attention.

Butchery – How?

Placement – Why?

Careful noting of the smallest detail,

Builds the picture.

The beauty, matters.

Beauty, simply, does.

“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

The principle, works down the ages.

Beauty, mystery, and…..practicality.


Bernie Bell August 2015

things mirror B BellIt looks to me like surrounding ourselves with, and holding onto ‘things’, has got much worse in the modern world – maybe because folk are so very insecure about themselves and their futures. Surrounding themselves with things to help them to feel more secure in an increasingly insecure world. Holding on to money now, so that you can spend your old age in a ‘home’.  Personally, I hope I pass before I have to go into a home – even in the good ones, it’s not an appealing way to have to live. We used to visit an elderly friend, in a ‘home’, and one of the other residents used to say to me “It’s no way to be, Betty, it’s no way to be.” (She thought I was someone from her past, called Betty).  I could see her point about it being no way to be, or place to be, for that matter. When I heard that she had passed, I said a big “Thank you”.

As Peter Pan says “Dying can be an awfully big adventure”.

What goes amiss, is when a person lets the ‘things’ matter too much, more than people or other living things.

That’s often the problem with dead folk who hang around. There’s a book by Matthew Manning called  ‘The Strangers’ about his experiences when he was young. His family lived in a house where there was still a man from the 18th Century, Robert Webb.  Robert Webb’s problem was that he thought it was still his house and didn’t see why these ‘strangers’ were living there.

The second time we came on holiday to Orkney, we stayed in a house, where there were people who had a similar problem – one man in particular. I pointed out to him, that he only came to own the house, when someone else died. It had been their house, then it was his, now it was someone else’s. It was still ‘his’ in a way, and would be as long as he felt attached to it, but that now, other people ‘owned’ it, and it was their house, too. That’s how it goes. He wasn’t convinced!

tractors B BellAny hoo – things are just things – but they do matter for the peace of mind of us humans – it’s just part to our nature – I think. As long as we don’t let it take over.

One of the most precious things I have, is a postcard which my Mum sent me when she and my Auntie Bridie and their friend Bea O’Hara went to Lourdes. It’s precious because it has her hand-writing on it.  I don’t have anything else belonging to her, but a head-full of memories.

There’s a comment on the site, that the man who smashed all his possessions, would need to re-buy the basics – thereby consuming again – a very, very perceptive comment.

Tea cosie B BellWe surround ourselves with stuff, and what really matters is….health.  That may sound trite, but I believe it to be so.

Another aspect of the ideas raised here by Michael Landy, is – I baulk at the destruction of useable things – even in the name of art or making a strong point – destroying things which could be of use, is against a very deep part to my nature and my up-bringing. We were brought up to never waste anything, and, anything we don’t want, to give to someone who did.

All that smashing of things that people without those things could use, goes against the grain for me. Destroying useful things, just to make a point. If I was there, I would have given him a telling off!  That stuff could have gone to a charity shop. I mean it!

Do you remember when the KLF burnt a million pounds, cash? That was some kind of statement about the music industry – I couldn’t help thinking what that million pounds could have done in a charity such as Breadline Africa.

I did think that the KLF were being silly arses.

Different approaches, I suppose.  I hate waste.

On our fridge door, I have a magnet saying ‘The best things in life, are not things’ – note, it’s on a fridge! And, having said that, I must admit, that I do like ‘things’!  I like pleasing things around me.  I like to be comfortable. We got a chair at the Birsay Antiques Centre, and I love it – it’s old and, has to be said, a wee bit manky, but it’s lived in and a real thing.  That chair could be re-upholstered  time and time again, but the basic wooden frame work would last a long, long time, and it’s such a fine chair.  It pleases me to have it in our house – I think it was a good thing to bring into the house.  So, yes, I like things!  It’s just how we are – as long as we don’t let any one aspect of our existence dominate too much.

I can see the point that Michael Landy is making. I can see the statement, but it rubs against a lot of things in me which cry out against waste – and…..humans are weak and need some things around them which make them feel safer. That’s just one aspect of being human.

That’s my take on it!

Love and Light plate B Bell


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3 replies »

  1. I suppose the difference is between wanting/needing to have things around you, which are useful, look good, or which mean something to you in some way, and just having the desire/need to have/possess…..things.

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