The Dilemma

Usually when writing, the first sentence is the most important part of your entire monologue. (See there, I already ruined it.) But I really wondered about what was the most imperative thing to say first. I think this dilemma is significant, because my dilemma is between stating my brother’s death and its effect on me, and stating that the personification of objects isn’t the healthiest thing to do. Woah. That’s heavy. But also, that’s confusing. How could either one of those statements be about the same thing? Well, let me break it down for you.

As a sister, it will always seem imperative to put my brother’s death first. It has been at the forefront of my mind for the last 10 months, so why shouldn’t it be at the forefront of a paragraph? It’s worthy of some notice. It’s been the single most dramatic thing to happen to me in my short life, and it’s had an unbelievably large effect on my day to day thinking. But it seems that my mind is in favor of the second statement. That’s my take home message, I should say. I can just hear every English teacher I’ve ever had saying, “What’s the point?” So putting emotions aside, here’s my point: It’s unhealthy to attach sentiment, value, and sacredness to an object of any kind.

I’ve kept token items or memorabilia; I was one of those children that had collections (stickers for example), and up until recently I saved every single movie ticket I ever bought spanning the last seven years of my life. Why? I still don’t know, to justify these odd collections I would tell people I had bigger plans for them- a framed collage of all the movie tickets for example. But deep down I knew I would never get around to it. And why should I? Those tickets don’t mean anything to me. Sure, I enjoy movies, but more than half of them I wouldn’t see again. And what would a piece of artwork such as that say about me if I hung it on my wall? That I pilfered away my time watching useless movies because I was a bored adolescent? I’d like to think better of myself than that.

It’s no surprise that I was incredibly upset when our new puppy Nelli (like the Benelli shotgun) tore down a large paper sunflower that my brother had made when he was in kindergarden. It had his name on it and the line, “You’re the Greatest Dad!” I assume it was made for father’s day. I had gone upstairs to shower and when I returned I saw a bunch of green paper pieces floating in a giant puddle of water from the freshly refilled, and even more recently dumped, water bowl. Nelli was but of course the culprit. I can’t even begin to express the rage I experienced when I saw the little green piece of paper that said, “Willie” on it drenched and beyond repair. I rushed over and fumbled around collecting the pieces, all the while telling Nelli how much I detested her for ruining something my deceased brother had made. I gave up and just started crying an uninhibited, all consuming cry. I hadn’t cried like that for several months, thinking that the worst of my grief was over. Some minutes passed and I felt ashamed for yelling at Nelli the way I did. She of course forgave me and has since forgotten, on to her new acts of terror.

The fact that a torn and drowned piece of green construction paper had such an effect on me is incredible. It made me behave shamelessly and selfishly. I don’t like that I lost my cool and took it out on an innocent puppy, but what I don’t like even more is that an artifact can hold such significance. It’s always been taught in psychology that symbols are an important tool for emotion. People see the American flag and feel either pride or hatred. The Nazi symbol makes many shudder with anger or sorrow. And that little red number at the top of your facebook screen often brings joy. Why should my emotions be controlled by such symbols and/or objects is beyond my understanding. It’s as if I saw Nelli literally tearing apart and drowning my flesh and blood. But the fact of the matter is he died 10 months ago. All I’m sure of is that this kind of emotional attachment to objects can be dangerous. If I were a more violent person, I may have struck Nelli with awful blows- I had already terrified her with my yelling.

Encasing my brother’s life in a piece of paper, his old room, his car, or even his handwriting just doesn’t do him justice. And the more we cling to these things- because that’s what they are, things- the more we warp what was truly important in the first place. I feel pride in myself because I know I studied hard and graduated high school with honors, not because a diploma was handed to me while I wore an oversized purple gown. Some people hate our country because our popular media conflicts with their religious views, not because our flag is star-spangled. And my memory of my brother will not die because things associated with him are gone. Lord Voldemort may have been able to place parts of his soul in objects, but I have yet to meet a human (or muggle) that can. That paper sunflower is no more a part of my brother than a rock in a stream or a piece of glass in an alley. And sobbing over his old possessions isn’t going to honor his memory.

To conclude I’ll just say that to live is to have emotion. Sure, we come in contact with many objects and many of them become symbols of something emotional. But it’s just that- they’re symbols. What is it that they’re truly representing? What is the real reason why your chest is swelling with pride, grief, hatred, or happiness? Focus on that, and take the silly placeholders out of the equation. It cheapens the sentiment and warrants irrational behavior. I should like to think that our own memories, rather than items, serve us best when reflecting on the true significance of our experiences. The memories we don’t recall are usually not worth remembering.

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