In his latest Backside column, Editor-in-Chief Mitchell Scott waxes on mugs and other wholly unalive things. Or are they?
I have a favourite mug. It was given to me by a friend who, at that time, was relatively new to pottery, and as a result — I’m just postulating — the mug is a little overbuilt. It’s a relatively heavy, deep Middle Ages-like goblet. Finished with an earthy glaze and a wide bottom, the vessel is virtually bombproof, as demonstrated by its 15 years of service. I use it for everything from triple-shot lattes to beer (it takes a full tall boy). With enough room in the handle for all four fingers, it’s my preferred driving mug, even though it comes nowhere close to fitting into a cup holder.
Upon reflection, I have few notable relationships with everday things that are both simple and useful. My mug trumps all other dishware, save for a fishing knife made by my grandfather, but I fish much less than I drink. I’m fond of an Italian leather jacket, which I don’t wear every day in my puffy-coat hinterland, but the jacket is relatively new so our bond is still evolving. And I like certain pieces of gear, like skis and packs and bikes, but even the most cherished quotidian object is usually fleeting — you either break it, wear it out, or replace it. It’s just a thing after all, right? An inanimate, non-sentient, wholly unalive thing?
My mug trumps all other dishware, save for a fishing knife made by my grandfather, but I fish much less than I drink.
What is this mysterious force that bonds us with something so scientifically dead? It turns out a whole body of research examines the potential of our relationship to everyday items. “My house is not just a thing,” writes Karen Lollar, a professor of communication studies at Denver’s Metropolitan State University. “The house is not merely a possession or a structure of unfeeling walls. It is an extension of my physical body and my sense of self that reflects who I was, am, and want to be.” Everything in the universe, including inanimate objects, consists of energy, and as such, everything vibrates. If our own vibrations match those of a particular thing, it creates in us a certain attachment to that object. A life-force connection. I use other mugs — we have a flotilla — but I only care for one. Our vibrations are alive and aligned. Our bond has moved past its genesis story, its aesthetic, and its functionality—we are a shared history. What thing do you love the most?