The Eternal Life of Objects

The connection between material objects and time fascinates me. Things can transcend time. They are more eternal than people, in one sense. For example, I recently found on our shelves a 1942 edition of the “Song and Service Book for Ship and Field: Army and Navy.” It’s still here, thousands of miles from the city where it was published, transcending who knows what dangers, surrounded perhaps by death on every side. Human death. And yet, it’s still here.

There’s something about this that’s attractive, almost mystical. If you hold the book in your hand, you can almost believe that you still hold all the time that’s passed in the course of its existence. You can almost convince yourself that you’ve stopped time from passing at all. You are holding a piece of the past in your present-day hand. You have overcome time, and you have almost overcome death. The book is still here.

But it’s only a book. Ink, paper, and binding. Things have this transcendence both because of their substance and their nothingness. The object has no actual life, and so has no life to lose.

It seems odd, though, that a thing can outlast a person, even the person who made it. It’s one of those small, bright keyholes in the universe. If you peer through it, you might catch a glimpse of something.