July was a month of sorting. My spouse has been ripping CDs to our computer database. We have a lot of music. As with many of our possessions, we don't actually use much of it much, or at all. Once he started with the CDs, it was only a matter of time until we looked at the albums.
Oh, the LP. How I love vinyl. I still play it occasionally. I still think there's a warmth and a depth in vinyl that's not often present in a CD--at least not the CDs we own.
And then, there are the cassette tapes. Most of them are tapes of music that we also own in some other medium, like CDs or vinyl. Most of them were made by us. Some of the tape is very old. Much of it doesn't sound good.
We also found some blank tapes. My spouse said, "Can you imagine a time when you'll ever wish you had these tapes?"
I didn't miss a beat. I said, "Well, if there's been a nuclear war, and the electromagnetic pulse wipes out our computer files."
My spouse didn't act like this idea was crazy. He didn't point out that we likely wouldn't have electricity either. He gestured towards our musical instruments (guitars, mandolins, and dulcimer) and said, "We'll probably wish we had learned to play those."
I said, "We'll have plenty of time to learn--when we're not foraging for food and other supplies."
Many things keep my marriage together, but one of the things I most cherish is how much I don't have to explain. I don't have to talk about those 1980's nuclear war movies; most of them, we saw together. I don't have to tell him what an electromagnetic pulse is; we learned about the effects of nuclear war in the same class in college.
Not that we're always in agreement. I love the LP as cultural artifact; he just values the music that it conveys, and once it's stored in a different format, why save the LP itself?
There are moments during the periodic sortings that we do when I feel the same sort of bittersweetness that I feel during the early scenes of those 1980's nuclear war movies: oh, look at that sweet domesticity that's all going to be scorched earth by the end of this film! Part of it is saying, "We had that same toaster in 10th grade!" "That answering machine is huge!" "I remember when that wallpaper seemed so glamorous!"
So many artifacts. What to do with them?
Sorting as metaphor. Can that metaphor be made new?
And on this anniversary of the Hiroshima blast, I am aware of the very temporary nature of our lives and our artifacts. One fine morning we can be eating breakfast one minute, or walking to work, and then, in one blast, a few seconds, we're fused into the concrete. It's a sobering thought, and a good one to have, to move our hearts to gratitude for a day where we're not facing a thermonuclear blast, where we don't have to deal with an electromagnetic pulse, where our loved ones are still here, on this side of the earth.
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