Sunday, July 08, 2012

What do you value? What do you keep? What do you get rid of? How?

As I stated below, I recently returned from NY;  I was with most of my large family going over details of the "personalty" from my mother's estate.

My parents were hoarders.

They had a lot of stuff,  much of it with very little value at all, although some of it had great value.  Don't ask though about the really valuable stuff - diamond rings and such.  That's the subject for another koan. 

There are some items that appear to be made of jade.  The price of jade has gone up in value astronomically, as China's fortunes have gone on the upturn in recent decades.

There's also silver coin, and maybe-not-silver-but-definitely-stuff not made anymore. Like the above coin that (forgive the poor photography) in real life sports 2 swastikas.

There's other things, too, some of which might have gone up in value a great deal, some of which was wisely sought after by my parents, and some of which even now seems hideous to me. 

My parents were the sort of people who had certain ideas about "fashion" and "style."  That is, they wore whatever they wanted to however they wanted to (or was available? on sale?) and they simply did not care how it looked.  Oftentimes it seemed the idea was calculated to shock, if you can imagine how extremely conservative 2nd generation East European late middle age/elderly folks might shock one.

My wife tells me some of this stuff has gone up in value - there is apparently a strong market in China for bolos, inter alia

All of this brings up a few interesting koans, i.e., the title of this post.  Does one keep a Nazi era coin? Does one sell it? Throw it out? What about my father's idiosyncratic clothing/accessory tastes? 

One item was a no-brainer: My parents had saved - like many Americans do - about $45.00 in pennies in jars.  They went right to Coinstar. The silver was heavy enough, thank you.

But back to the koan. We "inherit" a lot of things from a lot of people.  Some things we can profitably give away to other people. Some things we can use to our benefit and enjoyment and the benefit and enjoyment of others. Some things we can sell, because the economic value of the thing sold is worth more than keeping the thing.

Among the items I received was a 硯 (suzuri, or yàn) that was apparently purchased in China back in the 80s.  It is very close in size to the kind that I had seen a Japanese master use, though this one has a minor flaw.  I am told it may be valuable to sell, but if I used it it would have less value.  But I do wish to continue a practice of 書道.   But I also am quite an amateur.  It's not quite but sort of in the same direction as if you were to give an 11 year old kid a vintage Gibson guitar...of course you don't give an 11 year old kid a vintage Gibson.  Or if you do you make sure he damn well knows how to use it.  Then again my kid has a rather pricey violin.

I'm keeping the 硯, of course, and know enough about 書道 to be able to understand how to take care of it. 

Much of the problems we have both with ourselves and with our families/communities can be attributed, I'd suspect, to a lack of understanding of what should be valued, what should be kept, what should be disposed of, and how things should be disposed. 

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