Sunday, January 7, 2007

More than my possessions..

I have just got back from the Brighton market. Even though it is Sunday morning and cold and damp... very cold. I made a huge effort and dragged myself out of bed before the sun came up. I remind myself that I am in England at the moment and the sky is so grey it is tricky working out if the sun has risen or not. I did manage to get there early enough to catch the stallholders as they were unpacking their trucks. (photo by David Gray-see URL in side column)

Like all real bric a brac markets, the stall holders arrive in rusty old trucks and vans with their goods in any sort of container they might have had hanging around...old suitcases, collapsing cardboard boxes or old biscuit tins. I am a regular bric a brac visitor but I never buy much..the occasional piece of jewellery or the odd vase or trinket that catches my fancy but I just like going there. It is as if I am visiting a different world run by different species of people.

It is the "citizens" of this world, the stallholders, that interest me. They aseem to me to be different to the rest of us. They look different. There is a knowing look in their eye that sees through "the punters". Between you and me I have a secret belief that they are the true zen masters. Isn't it just a given to them that this thing we call life is merely a transient phase? It is their job to know this! They feed themselves on our impermanence. Their whole business is based on this. While we sit for hours in uncomfortable meditation positions trying to come to terms with the nothingness of everything, they simply go about their business of cleaning up after us. Like dung beetles, they tidy up after humans have moved on. They simply drive up to the now "departed" home and gather all the flotsam and jetsam into their rusty van until no sign of the life once lived is present. The photograph that had once been awarded pride of place on the mantelpiece is just another piece of the leftovers to be thrown into the truck and carted away.

I remember this as I fossick through the old suitcases and turn over pieces of costume jewellery and I find an old wedding photograph. I try to imagine the person stading looking out at me, the person who once treasured these things. The photograph reminds me that each of these jettisoned articles was once the very focus of a person's life. For just a few minutes I try to honour that one moment in the picture and hope that it worked out as welkl as the picture promised. I untangle a cheap looking gold chain from a little varnished box. Cheap looking to me but precious to someone, once.

I dont want you to think this is a depressing visit to me. It is quite the opposite. It is liberating. It reminds me of the absurdity of focussing a life on acquiring things, or "needing" to own things. It reminds me it is all an illusion. I remember the wisdom of people like William Morris and his quest that all things we use should be beautiful and useful. I try to remember that the real legacy of a life is in the eyes of the grandkids or the story of the good things they have done, or a myriad of actions that led to someone else's life being better. That's all that matters. Wasn't it the Dalai Llama who when asked what his philosophy was, said "Kindness, simply kindness"?

My early morning trip to the market reminds me that all the angst I allow myself to thrash around in is a waste of my creative time. The real value of a life is in what is created... what is learned along the way and in the times I made the life and journey of another easier.

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