One of my sisters maintains that ‘everyone has a story’ and she says it like it was some kind of positive thing. While I on the other hand might agree to that statement in principle I would still argue that yes, while everyone might have a story, most people’s stories are boring as hell and best case, those same people are just going through the motions of living and don’t have a clue about the true nature of living much less understanding the art of living.
I need to qualify the whole art of living thing because I suspect many of you might misunderstand and think that I speak to glossy magazines and how they posit the good life while I actually mean just the opposite.
Discovering and practicing the art of living is actually more about taking the natural materials and circumstances of your ordinary life, understanding their true worth and then rending the greatest possible value proposition from each and everything in your life. For example in the Japanese culture the true cognoscenti place much higher value on an old worn wooden bucket than its more popular colorful plastic mass produced counterpart. It’s a concept known as wabi-sabi.
And the most important takeaway to wrapping your head around living life well with what you have in all of its precious immediacy is the joyful happiness that results when you finally realize that you’ve got just enough.
And what you’ve got is good enough.
And the only important acquisitions you’ll ever make again in your life will be to your heart, to your head, and to the health of your body.
Anyway, there are times when someone in seemingly such ordinary circumstances surprises the hell out of me like today when I met a guy who showed me a couple of museum class antiquities that were part of his greater personal collection of two hundred or so pieces.
This particular man quietly and respectfully showed me artifacts that were dear to his cultural identity. There was no showmanship.
The gravitas of his demeanor either could not or would not speak to the commercial value of what lay on the table in the form of ancient objects. Indeed the objects were presented in such a way as to challenge whether or not I the viewer was culturally sensitive enough to appreciate the objects as stripped of their commercial value. Could I appreciate them for how they were once used? By the people who used them? And how centuries of time had transformed them into objects of art?
Interestingly, the afternoon had begun innocently enough. After lunch I grabbed my Spanish book where I walked the block over to the Plaza where I like to alternate between studying and watching people. Then I stopped by my neighbor’s practice on the north side of the Plaza to see what he was up to and there was an old gentleman sitting there who had just picked up his prescription but following Mexican social convention was engaging the doctor in a chat of his own.
A further extenuation of Mexican circumstances would have it that this gentleman was not just a patient but was also a first cousin to the doctor’s wife. The conversation shifted to the Aztecs, history, and the local surrounding ancient cultures and before I knew it, myself and this gentleman were making our way a few blocks north on foot to visit the loncheria (lunch restaurant) of his friend, who like himself, finds and collects antiquities.
So in the space of less than an hour I go from studying Spanish to handling (not viewing through protective glass but actually handling) a few extraordinary antiquities, some of which should have been in a museum.
Imagine holding and touching an 800 year old Aztec double headed hand axe that was intricately carved with the base relief of a warrior out of a heavy dark green stone? Or holding a big piece of petrified jaw bone of a mammoth or part of its enormous petrified tusk?
Then he brought out a few little pieces of worked copper, a copper bell and some small fired clay figurines. One tiny copper piece was in the form of an intricate head of some mythical dragon like beast.
I know you want to ask me if they were real. A guy who runs a sandwich shop could own such treasures?
And the answer is yes.
Under circumstances so banal of course they were real.