Use with Joy

Well maybe

Use with joy. A brightly colored sticker on, of all things, a waste paper or trash container. In today’s world of too much of everything, we have containers for plastic, for glass, for organic, for paper, for just plain trash. It’s one way of trying to save the environment and is amazing how much we humans throw out. Especially, plastic and metal. So, we need the right kind of container for all this “stuff”. Most are relatively simple, keeping in mind that they can’t be tipped over with their insides scattered to the wind, or rummaged through by cats and dogs.

I’ve frequently wondered though what the person who designed my waste paper canisters, or put the sticker on, was like. The concept puzzles me. For on these black rather streamlined containers with a swivel top (can’t think of the right word in English but the Italian “basculante” pops up), there is a large sticker, saying Use with joy. I never thought of using a waste paper basket with joy. Although I suppose if I were a fan of Marie Kondo, who tells us to discard anything that does not spark joy, I would understand. Could she have been the designer? Not that I feel a surge of joy every time I consign a piece of paper to its black innards. Among other things, I don’t agree with Marie Kondo. True, I have too many things littering my living space. But then one never knows when they might be useful. I just hate to throw things away. As evidently do my sons, and as was also true of my parents and in-laws. For which one is of course grateful for it is family history. Many of the items collected over the years would fall into the category of “useless”. A notebook with at least a dozen blank pages, an empty jam jar, a special Christmas card, ribbons from a gift. Things, but are they really useless? A thing is just a a thing, muses Count Rostov when he is forced to move from a suite into a servant’s room on the top floor of the Hotel in Moscow and say adieu to his family heirlooms. But then is a thing just a thing?

That jar… those ribbons, they could be replaced. But then they wouldn’t be the same. That specific jar once held raspberry jam, which takes me back to the raspberries I used to pick on the farm over seventy years ago, the ribbons were from Christmas presents perhaps three years ago when friends now on the other side of the globe were with us.  True, none of these give me a surge of joy when I use them, but they are tied in with my past. Nostalgia if you like. Which is why I disagree with Amor Towles/Count Rostov that a thing is just a thing. But of course a thing is NOT just a thing. Or perhaps, we can say it is and it isn’t. Physically, it is. But a thing has a soul and that remains. It is ineluctably part of the thing but at the same time part of us. Of course in order to survive and not recriminate the past, the Count had to relegate things to a past and close the door. Opening it occasionally, but with equanimity, without regrets. To the contrary. With joy for what was. A life must be lived and that can only be done by not dwelling on yesterday but by seeing what today holds, how we can make the most of today. Of course there’s no way we can eliminate that past for it is who we are.  It is our relationship with the thing and therefore with past time that matters.

Still, I am puzzled by the Use with joy sticker and can’t help wondering whose idea it was to put it on a waste-paper container.

4 thoughts on “Use with Joy

  1. This is from your friend Diane Joy, whose other middle name should probably be “Hoarder,” and who saves every one of the items you mention. You can probably guess how much I agree with what you are saying, so perhaps I can surprise us both by stopping here.

    Envoyé de mon Di-Phone


  2. But a thing has a soul and that remains.

    Such a beautiful sentiment! And I agree. Thank you for being you. I feel lucky to have discovered you as well as Claudio.

    Do you know the poem “Eidolons” by Walt Whitman?

    Somehow it came to mind after reading your piece:

    I met a seer, Passing the hues and objects of the world, The fields of art and learning, pleasure, sense, To glean eidolons. Put in thy chants said he, No more the puzzling hour nor day, nor segments, parts, put in, Put first before the rest as light for all and entrance-song of all, That of eidolons. Ever the dim beginning, Ever the growth, the rounding of the circle, Ever the summit and the merge at last, (to surely start again,) Eidolons! eidolons! Ever the mutable, Ever materials, changing, crumbling, re-cohering, Ever the ateliers, the factories divine, Issuing eidolons. Lo, I or you, Or woman, man, or state, known or unknown, We seeming solid wealth, strength, beauty build, But really build eidolons. The ostent evanescent, The substance of an artist’s mood or savan’s studies long, Or warrior’s, martyr’s, hero’s toils, To fashion his eidolon. Of every human life, (The units gather’d, posted, not a thought, emotion, deed, left out,) The whole or large or small summ’d, added up, In its eidolon. The old, old urge, Based on the ancient pinnacles, lo, newer, higher pinnacles, From science and the modern still impell’d, The old, old urge, eidolons. The present now and here, America’s busy, teeming, intricate whirl, Of aggregate and segregate for only thence releasing, To-day’s eidolons. These with the past, Of vanish’d lands, of all the reigns of kings across the sea, Old conquerors, old campaigns, old sailors’ voyages, Joining eidolons. Densities, growth, facades, Strata of mountains, soils, rocks, giant trees, Far-born, far-dying, living long, to leave, Eidolons everlasting. Exalte, rapt, ecstatic, The visible but their womb of birth, Of orbic tendencies to shape and shape and shape, The mighty earth-eidolon. All space, all time, (The stars, the terrible perturbations of the suns, Swelling, collapsing, ending, serving their longer, shorter use,) Fill’d with eidolons only. The noiseless myriads, The infinite oceans where the rivers empty, The separate countless free identities, like eyesight, The true realities, eidolons. Not this the world, Nor these the universes, they the universes, Purport and end, ever the permanent life of life, Eidolons, eidolons. Beyond thy lectures learn’d professor, Beyond thy telescope or spectroscope observer keen, beyond all mathematics, Beyond the doctor’s surgery, anatomy, beyond the chemist with his chemistry, The entities of entities, eidolons. Unfix’d yet fix’d, Ever shall be, ever have been and are, Sweeping the present to the infinite future, Eidolons, eidolons, eidolons. The prophet and the bard, Shall yet maintain themselves, in higher stages yet, Shall mediate to the Modern, to Democracy, interpret yet to them, God and eidolons. And thee my soul, Joys, ceaseless exercises, exaltations, Thy yearning amply fed at last, prepared to meet, Thy mates, eidolons. Thy body permanent, The body lurking there within thy body, The only purport of the form thou art, the real I myself, An image, an eidolon. Thy very songs not in thy songs, No special strains to sing, none for itself, But from the whole resulting, rising at last and floating, A round full-orb’d eidolon


  3. You remind me that I enjoyed reading A Gentleman in Moscow – it’s time I read it again, perhaps especially in this dreadful time of Putin’s war on Ukraine. I don’t really have a great deal of nostalgia for objects though.


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