18 November, 2013

History, Legacy... Heritage?

This past weekend I was chance to participate in a conversation between a number of people when the subject of "possessions" arose.  More particularly was the subject as it related to heirlooms and family history.

One young man man had been set in the predicament of selling his father's house and the possessions therein.  At one point an "estate specialist" had been brought in to consign or resell the contents of the house in order to get it ready for a pre-sale inspection, as a contract had been entered into for sale of the home.

In the interim the sale fell through, but the contents, having been removed from the home, were sold.  The young man came upon an old receipt from an appraiser done some twenty years prior and he was appalled to discover that the things which ultimately needn't have been sold so hastily, had been sold for what amounted to pennies on the dollar.  He of course felt betrayed by the home inspector who had told him the house had to be empty in order to do an inspection, by the realtor who validated that falsehood, and by the "estate specialist" who had undersold a house full of family heirlooms and various antiques.

It is how the conversation evolved which struck me.  This young man was now at odds with HIMSELF because he was trying to rectify why that should be so important.  They were, after all, just THINGS.  Possessions.

As I listened to this young man troubling (and rationalizing) himself and his situation, I came to appreciate the dichotomy we all face when it comes to remembering and honouring our past(s).  In certain "things" there are stories, stories sometimes which cannot be told using just words, but which demand visual aid or accompaniment, like scenery in a play.  Sure, the story is intriguing, but what, exactly, are we talking about.  Where is the vessel, the vehicle which drives the story?  One person can tell that story to a dozen people and tell it a dozen different ways, but the object of that story is static, unchanged.

In the South we are very fond of our "oral histories".  Stories are told from one generation to the next to entertain, to hazard, to educate.  Without OUR STORIES it is likely that future generations of Southron will drift a little further from that place from whence we came.  So are they just "things"?  Or are they subtle reminders of who we are and where we came from?  Are they a tangible, physical link to our past that allow us to connect with our ancestors in a way which cannot be duplicated by mere spoken or even written word?

I decided not to interfere with this young man's apparent serenity over the things that he had lost at the hands of such scoundrels and ne'er-do-wells.  Beyond that is was out of his hands, he had made his decision on how to handle his own disappointment without rancor or malice.  Rather than dwell on that over which he no longer had control, he chose to to be gracious and search for a new peace.

And that is a pretty humbling lesson in itself.

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