Yesterday, a friend handed me a gift he had gotten from Japan. It was a Holga 120. “Limited edition,” he beamed. But I had to reject it.
Was it rude? I did feel so, having grown up in the kind of traditional Chinese family/culture where gifts are more about the gesture and intent. Yet as much as I appreciated his gesture, I couldn’t accept it. Not just because I had expressedly told him not to get it, but more that it would not receive the love it deserves with me.
I am very happy with my OM-10. It has been a loyal companion since 2012, travelling with me around Singapore and to various parts of the world; from the villages of Laos to the grottier subways of Budapest. Its light meter is temperamental, dust flecks have settled, there’s now a spot of wine directly centralised in the viewfinder from a wedding dinner accident. But it’s all I need, really. My old Holga―about a decade old―sits with various other Lomography cameras I toyed with in the first few forays into film (obviously a hoarder here).
Why should we need so much? As time passes, I crave more for simplicity, and less possessions. During childhood days, possessions were much fewer but loved even beyond their tattered ends. For me: a book that had its cover chewed off by our Cane Corso; a disgustingly frayed Ipod leather cover; another broken Tamiya car. These still hold larger parts of me than newer, stranger goods. I may still be wearing clothes from 2007, but I remember all the special occasions it clothed me in.
Possessions have their own stories. My typewriter was a chance find at Thieves Market, bought on impulse and blind trust, lugged around a rather backbreaking day. And thereafter, all the times I typed out letters and #tweedlebakes notes…and more.
Perhaps it’ll carry imprints of someone else’s fingerprints after my transient presence is done.
I feel that I have too much. I’m actually horrible at taking care of my things. I’ve lost two very precious gifts. I succumb to temptations for the new. And so, it’s a journey towards giving more respect and appreciation to what I already have. To take better care of them. I should be clearing my backlog of books instead of manic borrowing at the libraries (and not always reading all of those too). I should be maintaining, cleaning and using my guitar and shoes. I should be talking to my succulents more, haha. And let’s not even start on the notebooks. Basically, to love them more…and to love better (aka not hoarding to the point of stupidity and clutter).
And why would we want so much? Facebook: an orgy of voices and endless lists and reading material—can all these information be retained? Or are all these to be clicked on, scanned through and exited from without giving notice to all the inherent value? Why was it written? Who wrote it? What accompanies it: hyperlinks to deeper analysis, insightful comments (both positive and negative), the need to seek better understanding and more research? Do you remember what you read on Facebook a week ago or more the last book you read?
Valuable content gets so easily lost amidst the fight for attention if not careful…I myself am not a big fan simply because I know how easily distracted I am.
A simple life owns much more luxury. To do your work well (and not overcommit/overstretch), have coffee and food made with care, to make time not just for your loved ones but for yourself, to have a good night’s sleep. To be able to take a lunchtime walk and learn to listen to the stories of raintrees with the ferns that find homes on their gnarly branches…and to to your own body: don’t slouch; relax your shoulders; breathe with all your senses. To find a favourite seat and have baristas remember your order, rather than chasing the list of “Newly Opened”s and “Must Visits”. To make friends with the skilled hands behind favourite hawker dishes, working every day simply with the intention to serve it to someone else. A daily diet I survived on in Barcelona of mainly bread, cheese, canned tuna and wine (along with whatever fresh fruits and nuts in season) is what I’d love to return to. Everyday pleasures.
And to receive for your birthday: a day to disappear in a new place for space to reflect; another reason for loved ones to gather; something you’ve been needing at home. To save and spend on a well-made product or to support a friend’s work. Although going for boring needs rather than flashier wants feels like you’re growing old, I believe it’s just that we’re getting to know what we really want with age
After all, simple doesn’t mean boring. It just really means focused (there’s a reason why hugs fit best between two no?). And I’d rather focus on doing less better, and having less but loving more. It isn’t as easy as it sounds, especially with my ADD and the love to learn+experiment. But I’ll get there.
And I do hope my friend understands; that one day it’ll reach the hands of someone who gives the Holga the love it deserves.
Meanwhile, it’s time to talk to my succulents. The world is rich. The trees are around every day. We don’t need much…wouldn’t it be beautiful to have your possessions as companions?