I usually wash the dishes in the morning from the night before. Don’t judge me. The other day, for the first time ever and for reasons unknown, I randomly counted the silverware. Eighteen pieces, for two people, in 24 hours. Not counting serving utensils. WTF?
So say we are awake 12 of those hours. We are using a piece of silverware every 90 minutes on average. How can that be? The wife and I like to flatter ourselves that we “downsized”. We spent the first months of the lockdown in purge, clean and organize mode. It made us feel like we were actually moving. Instead of being caught in the quicksand of the mind. Like we were.
We got rid of the sofa and loveseat in the living room. In their place, we set up our craft station. We decided on an “action” living room, more of a studio than a space to flop around in wearing sweats binge-watching Three’s Company eating wheat thins and Cheez-Whiz straight from the can. We have some Feng-Shui going on. We streamlined subsistence. We mainstreamed minimalism. Being broke helped.
I can’t get that number out of my head. 18. Nine each. Indiscriminately distributed amongst the varieties, but heavily weighted towards spoons. Spoons! A couple of plastic ones that we use for either cereal or dessert. Some big ones that were for Greek yogurt or refried beans. I can’t remember which. And a bunch more. Only a few bowls, but all these spoons. And like two knives, both butter. Hmmmm…
Only four forks. What did we have for dinner? I think it was left-over buffet. Sometimes we choose that method of dining. When I was a kid, it wasn’t a preference, it was pretty much day-before-payday dinner. But here I was, contemplating the meaning of life as expressed through the number and assortment of silverware used in a 24-hour period by just two people.
I just watched a two-part documentary on the life and times of Jack London. What a hell of a man! I used to know a hell of a lot about him. He was my favorite author when I lived on the farm. Then I forgot all that stuff. I loved Call of the Wild, and Buck. But that was not me. I am not the kind to go wild. I was born wild.
I identified way more with White Fang. His path to domestication, and the rawness of the themes of morality and redemption evoked strong emotions in a 13-year-old boys heart. They still do in this 56-year-old boys heart. I find I still have that wild spirit, and my path to subjugation has been tumultuous and chaotic. And on-going.
As soon as I counted the silverware, I knew I would be writing about it. That happens now. Oddball and haphazard thoughts come and go through my brain. I find the weirdest connections between objects and subjects. I see how they shape-shift, starting as an object and finishing as a subject. I animate lifeless things. I anthromorphize all kinds of matters. I rationalize the incoherent.
That is why morality and redemption can be found in random counts of silverware. And also in the lives of people. Jack London was the most famous author of his time, the early 20th century. Maybe one of the most famous people period. He was beyond wealthy for the times. He was also an avowed socialist. I didn’t know that as a kid. I didn’t know what socialism was.
Jack London loved the material comforts his wealth provided. He also viscerally felt the abject poverty he grew up and toiled in during the first part of his life. Over the course of his life, he moved with ease through many cultures, a vast amount of them, if not new to the world, were certainly new to America. He was an everyman. Even amongst tribal warriors living in undiscovered jungles.
That is the essence of morality and redemption. Being at ease in one’s own skin. My morality and my redemption start with me. Children and dogs know authenticity when they smell it. We lose the capability, or rather, we suspend the ability as we age to sniff out legitimacy, truth, as it were. We accept morality and redemption from the outside, and are groomed to prostitute ourselves for elsewhere acceptance.
I counted the silverware and realized, even as I describe myself as a minimalist, I like spoons. Apparently, lots of them. Why can’t I be one thing in one area and another thing in another area? And still be me, and comfortable with myself? And authentic. I can. I am. That is why Jack London enjoyed his wealth, but he never ignored the lost lives of wrenching poverty he worked his way up from.
Poverty, the soul-sucking, dream-crushing common-sense-defying kind, like a wildfire creates it’s own weather. It takes little strength to survive this type of destitution, it just takes acceptance. To escape requires real intensity, a relentlessness of purpose, one that combines all of the faculties to move against the weight of momentum caused by that very same acceptance.
Jack London knew others of his class and culture would not be able to rise above, for whatever reasons that did not matter to him. He appreciated his material comforts, AND he used his time and treasure to advocate for his people. He remembered the forgotten man. He loved the neglected woman. He cared for the overlooked child.
Count your silverware proudly. And be who you want to be. You earned the right to do so.