When we were in graduate school, if my studiomate Corey was having an off day, she would go into the hammer room and forge a spoon. Translation: She would disappear with a length of silver stock and reappear a while later with a spoon perfectly capable of stirring hot cocoa or eating soup.
Eventually, Corey had a small collection of spoons that she kept in a handmade ceramic mug in her cabinet.
When you’re in graduate school for art, you pretty much live in the studio. As a result, each of us had our own small collection of dishes and utensils for eating meals throughout the day.
But inevitably, if anyone had something that required a spoon, you’d hear “Corey, can I use one of your spoons?” To which she always reply “yes.”
There was something about using one of Corey’s spoons that was different. Each one was unique, and while none of them were fancy, each seemed to elevate lunch time to a special occasion, even while sitting in my dirty studio apron at my messy desk.
There was something about the experience of using one of Corey’s spoons to which my regular studio spoons, purchased in the leftover section of the Oneida Limited outlet store, could never compare.
If stuff didn’t matter, if it didn’t effect who we are and how we experience the world, if it didn’t, in some small way, connect us to others, then it wouldn’t matter what spoon I was using. The experience of eating lunch would be the same regardless.
A spoon would be a spoon would be a spoon.
It’s really easy to pretend that stuff doesn’t matter when you view every object as an interchangeable cog in our lives. When you look at things only as serving a very limited function, then questions of style and lineage don’t matter. You don’t have to seek out special silverware because it’s all the same.
But it isn’t all the same.
I have seen firsthand how a single spoon can transform the simple act of eating lunch.
I have seen how excited someone could get when they got to use one of Corey’s special spoons. And I have felt the disappointment when I realized that Corey’s spoons were locked away in her cabinet and I wouldn’t be able to use them that day.
When I think about why stuff matters, I don’t think about the mass. I don’t about stuff as one big, slightly out of focus blob. I think about the individual objects and the stories that go along with them.
And it is these stories that help me understand just how much stuff matters.
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