The Phenomenology of Trash

Every time something in today’s little episode of chucking makes its way to the black plastic bag of Ultimate Truth, a.k.a. the bin, I’m noticing my reaction with interest.

Often I find myself imagining calling the person who gave me whatever it is I’m throwing out (a plastic bag, for instance — we’re not talking family heirlooms here) and asking their permission to throw it out. And it’s never “that plastic bag that’s been taking up room in my life for the last eight years,” it’s always “that plastic bag you lent me once that time we went on holiday to….” and so on ad nauseam.

In some ways this is nice; it’s a little trip down memory lane. But in other ways it’s actually slightly scary: the amount of sentiment stored up in what is, at root, junk, is pretty impressive. Of course some of it is good old fashioned false-economy… “Maybe I’ll need that, one day….” One never specifies what contingency might render it necessary to have (say) three feet of sealed-air anti-shock packaging so immediately available that having to order some would constitute personal or professional disaster. But still, there are little tendrils — and let’s get this in perspective, I’m talking about the very tiniest of barely-detectable twinges, not great wracking aches here — of guilt or regret or something like them, wrapped cobweb-like around these things in their places.

I suppose in a way this is like moving. Every time I did it as a kid (plenty, though not obscenely frequently) I felt (in retrospect) the freedom of complete self-reinvention, the discarding of a previous life like an outgrown shell. This is how I came out: on my first day at sixth form, four hundred miles from my comprehensive, I mentioned it in passing, was an object of headline curiosity for a month, and carried on with everything else in life with an iron self-confidence borne of that reinvention. And though I’ve moved since I’ve been in London, it’s always been within the same job, or within West London, or in some way just not really a “proper” move: there has been no sense of daring, with all due love and respect to my former (and brilliant) housemates, no real sense of jumping in the deep end or changing horses.

So perhaps this is my ode to doing something a bit more quotes-unquotes dangerous….

3 thoughts on “The Phenomenology of Trash

  1. Be warned: the path you are on is slippery and increasingly steep. I recently felt genuine grief upon hearing that my in laws had thrown away some photos because they didn’t know what family members were in them and they felt no connection to them. I have asked them not to throw anything else away until I have raced to the south coast to rescue anything else that could be used for unidentified ‘projects’. Dx

  2. @CheddarChica: By the sound of it, you and I are on the same path — at the peak of a hill — and about to start running!

    @Mark: Yes! See also your email.

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