Tag: things

What it means when it feels as if things are plotting against you…

Today I’ve had one of those days when things seem to be just being naughty.

I dropped my money in Costa Coffee, my bag kept falling off my shoulder as I walked around Waitrose looking for six Cornish pasties, six Cornish pasties fell out of the oven and dribbled pastry all over the floor, I bumped into a lamppost while scooting home with pasties in my bag, I tripped over a kerb and Excel crashed causing me to lose an hour’s work. I’ve felt cross and upset at things. I’ve been close to tears (the pasty disaster was pretty bad). I’ve been grumpy and sulky. I’ve withdrawn into my introspective world of negative thoughts. Why? Because six pasties fell on the floor, and the rest.

Now the day is ending and thinking back to my annoying day with the benefit of hindsight, I like the idea that inanimate objects can have such a strong influence on my emotional state. They don’t mean to upset me. They are just stuff. They aren’t really conspiring against me. There isn’t ‘something in the air’. I didn’t ‘get out of bed the wrong side’ (I got out of bed the same side as I always do). It is just what it is. It is what it is. It’s all a big coincidence. But it feels as if there is a purpose to the stubbornness of things. It really does feel as if they have been conspiring and laughing in a Mutley hissy toothy way.

A couple of years ago I came across the Object Oriented Ontology school of thought. This is the idea that things aren’t just things and we are superior to things; things have agency. They have just as much right as we, organic beings, to existence.  They deserve our respect. This idea was influenced by the mighty Heidegger who was big on ‘things’, their interconnectedness and what they mean to us.

Heidegger described this ‘annoyance’ I describe at objects, or the feeling we get when an object causes us distress, as: ‘the being just present at hand, and no more something present to hand’ (Bakewell, 2016, p. 69). In simpler words ‘the way we focus our troubles on the object that has let us down’. We focus on the object that has caused us annoyance rather than the action we were trying to perform with the object. It is the object’s fault in our eyes. And that failure is symbolic.

Martin Heidegger

When an object fails us, the world is no longer running smoothly. Rather, it is in a state of flux and chaos. We see this failure and flux as a metaphor for our personal failures and negative issues with our life’s path. Imagine the day, a ‘bad hair’ day, when things just keep betraying you. Suddenly, your life is awful, your job is awful, your marriage is a sham! Of course it isn’t really. It’s just normal. The empty stapler and the jamming photocopier didn’t cause your life to crumble. They just happened. Your life is ok.

I like this idea because to me it proves that objects have agency in our minds even if we don’t think about this very often and even if in reality they are just objects. They influence our emotional state even if that sounds nuts. Don’t look at this logically; you won’t like what you see. If you look at it from the perspective of experience, it isn’t at all weird. It happens all the time.

A random pile of annoying stuff

My 18-year-old self’s comfort objects

I seem to be in the nostalgia and reminiscing zone at the moment. Perhaps it is age. Yesterday I was reminiscing about secondary school and today, it is the turn of university.

Hope Hall, Exeter University

Hope Hall, Exeter University (where I watched two episodes of Brookside)

It occurred to me earlier today that it is, give or take the odd day, 25 years since I arrived at the University of Exeter (probably the best university in the world, as the car sticker says) as an excited and nervous fresher. My 18-year-old niece has just started her Freshers’ Week at Loughborough University (incidentally, Freshers’ Week in 2015 is a very different beast to what it was in 1990 but that is another blog entry). I am also about to experience Freshers’ Week as I am on the cusp of starting Year 3 of a BA (Hons) degree at the University of Wolverhampton (not sure I will be out drinking and dancing until 2am this time, I might just have half a pint somewhere). So all these things combined: my niece, my own impending studies, and a major anniversary since my first attempt at studies (I scraped a 2:1) have got me thinking back.

Me at university, at the end

Me at university, at the end

My weird thought relates to ‘things’. I am a big fan of ‘things’. Most of my art practice of recent months has centered on objects or things. Many of my weird thoughts and other blog entries are about ‘things’. I read a lot of books about ‘things’ and our relationship with such things. In fact, books are one of my own ‘things’. We need things in our lives. Things bring us comfort. We surround ourselves with the things we love and those things might not necessarily be the sort of ‘things’ normally regarded as comforting things. Without our things, anxiety and depression ensues. We may kid ourselves that we could live without things so long as we had health and family. Nope, not true. We’d fall into a well of loneliness without our things.

One of my favourite things

One of my favourite things

My current must-have things are: a black furry blanket purchased half price in Tescos, my current book, my sketch pad, real coffee, a black pen, a cushion (any cushion but preferably a velvet one), my children and husband (yes, people can be things), my cat and my hula hoop. These things are very different to the things my 18-year-old fresher self needed to have close by.

My 18-year-old things were: Brookside, my best friend Jane (sorry, Jane, for describing you as a thing), a duvet, tea, my favourite Top Shop trousers, my cat Crackers and my mixed tapes.

Can Brookside be a thing?

Can Brookside be a thing?

When I arrived at Exeter (a long way from home), I couldn’t take all my things with me. I certainly couldn’t take my cat Crackers and my best friend Jane. The others, I could just about manage. I sneaked a small black-and-white TV into halls but not having a license I only ever watched it under my bed when my two roommates were out. I think I only manged about two episodes of Brookside during the first term. So with just a duvet, my Top Shop trousers and my mixed tapes, I was a bit lost. I didn’t have my things with me, or at least not all of them. However, as time passed I adapted and found new things to love: my new friends, the library and books.

Yes, there was even an Exeter University BT phonecard

Yes, there was even an Exeter University BT phonecard

I wonder what my niece’s Freshers’ Week and beyond ‘things’ are? Perhaps the only correlation with my list of essential objects would be the duvet and feline company. I shall ask her. I suspect ‘phone’ or ‘laptop’ would feature in the 2015 student’s list.

A 'can't live without' thing

A ‘can’t live without’ thing