August 14th: A date that has innumerable forms of significance attached to it
Some treat this day as a period of cleansing and renewal. Others treat it as a time of upheaval and unrest. And some might even have a birthday on this most sacred of days. Still one definition sets itself apart from the rest, celebrating the act of giving – to themselves and their own homes. Hippie Christmas.
The tradition of Hippie Christmas is founded upon the transition of rental property leases for the Madison demographic of 18-24 year olds AKA college students. Leasers are forced to comply with their contracted agreement, and must vacate the premises of their living quarters else face “undesirable consequences”…
But the values of Hippie Christmas overshadows the history, proven by the many city inhabitants that strive to uphold the glory of this day. And with the holiday season upon them, the city of Madison made every effort to embody the preemptive refurnishing spirit. Celebrators kept in mind that good fortune comes to those who come early and that the early bird gets plasma screen T.V. They also were well informed of the target sites, setting their sights upon residential areas of affluence and a reputation for disposal. Veterans of this ceremonial practice would plunder to their heart’s content, obtaining only the most legendary items for the most profitable of prices. But there was always room for amateur practitioners to abscond with a generous haul of looted goodies from gilded garbage holds. Everyone was a winner on Hippie Christmas.
I wanted something different than the average citizen celebrator though. I was on an entirely different mission that night.
I would engage in a search and rescue operation. My primary objective was to search for items that contained sentimental value. These forgotten relics once stood for some other purpose, a hidden meaning beyond the original intention. Memories forged through the trials of time and bound through sincere ownership by an earnest possessor. But they are no longer. They are subject to the impermanence of human life and the wasteful nature that has overtaken society.
We watch each other discard and abandon. So many of the things we own have an expiration date. An expiration date arbitrarily assigned by ourselves. Once our possessions become obstacles to happiness, cleaning, fire safety laws or moving out, we act as we always have. We sever our ties to it. But what we really are doing is defacing the value behind the object. There are stories attached to it, a history preceding the present, and human lives intertwined because of this very object’s existence. There are so many belongings that we accumulate over time that it becomes hard to discern the true value. But we have become masters of symbolic attachment. This unspoken evaluation is what sets certain items apart. This is what makes them special.
The items that have been deemed “special” by the scavengers roaming the streets of Madison are a select few. The chosen artifacts of a prehistoric period when this object meant nothing more than its intended function. A point in time when no being associated a thought or feeling or belief to the body of the item. This “thing” resides in a sea of disposable goods and overindulgent waters, but the retention of its function allowed it to float to the surface. It is ripe for the picking and ready to take on a new form. To be salvaged from the wreckage of wastefulness is the greatest honor that can be bestowed. Though these foragers forsake the codes of honor, unsympathetic to the fates of the things around them. The foragers only seek to find items that fulfill their needs. But these items do not care. They just want to be used.
But then there are the objects that are overlooked. They do not have a buoy to keep them afloat. They experience major turbulence as endless waves of collectors wash over them, and bury them further down into the endless expanse. These objects did have something special though. They recorded moments of life. Revealed thoughts and feelings and beliefs. What existed was an opportunity to look through a window into someone else’s life. Each of these personal effects offering insight and a new perspective into the daily life of a citizen in Madison. These objects held the most significance in my eyes.
I treasured the articles that I did find. I sat and gazed at them, demanding that they give up their secrets. Let me into the lives they recorded. I wondered what these people were like. What I could discern from the items they once owned. I saw the significance behind these items, but I didn’t know the history. I wanted to save these objects. Why didn’t they?
I did have a reason for wanting to rescue these objects, but it is unclear to others around me. Perhaps it was my sense of inquiry, to discover the nature of the world around me. Perhaps it was my sense of duty, to save the broken and needy. Or perhaps it was because I saw a little bit of myself in these objects. So easily abandoned. So easily disposed. Just like a piece of trash.
Christmas came early for me this year. And I am proud to have successfully celebrated this most distinguished day, leaving with a triumphant victory and a newly enlightened perspective.