Editorial: Reductions

Trent Ernst, Editor


Last week, we moved my mom out of Hartford Court, where she has been living for the last few months, into Rotary Manor in Dawson Creek.

About a year and a half ago, she blew out one of her knees, and had to go in for surgery. The operation wasn’t as successful as we would have hoped, and she’s been dealing with mobility issues the last few months, as well as some other side effects of just getting old.

Which means that, over the last few days, we’ve been cleaning out her place, getting ready for the end of the month when it goes back into the rental pool.

As we go through the stuff, some of it mom’s, some of it dad’s, we’ve been deciding whether to keep it, sell it, or chuck it.

It’s a painful process, digging through the accumulated cruft of a lifetime of living, and deciding what is worth saving or no.

My dad, for instance, had an entire collection of ball caps that he thought important enough to be worth keeping.

But when we apply the keep, sell, or chuck metric, keeping these hats doesn’t even figure into it. Nobody wants them. The women don’t wear hats, and my comically oversized head is too big for most ball caps. They would serve no purpose. And, while they might have some important memory for my father, for me they are just ball caps. They don’t even remind me of him because, while he collected them, he cetainly didn’t wear them.

And so they wind up getting chucked, having no sentimental value and no monitary value.

The decision is made for all manner of items: books, bric a brac, clothing and keepsakes. Some do pass the sentimental test, having some value to my sister or to me. Other things pass the sell test, having some financial value. Much of it, though, winds up getting chucked.

As I carry another garbage bag out to the dumpster, I can’t help but wonder what secret treasures are being tossed? What apparently worthless item is infused with some hidden value, either financial or sentimental, that we, in our haste, in our ignorance, fail to recognize?

And how much are we reduced, as indivuduals, as a society, when we lose these things? When we accidentally throw them away, or deliberately chose to get rid of them?

On Sunday, the Islamic State blew up the temple of Baal Shamin, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Syria, the latest destruction of an antiquity carried out by the group.

When things like this happen, it’s easy to recognize that this is wrong, because the site had been recognized as having historical value, as being important in some way.

But how many times do we lose something of equal or greater value just by ignorance or inattention? How were we to know that painting in the attic that we tossed in the trash was really a Picasso? Or that jar of pennies that you took to the bank held a 1936 dot cent? Or that box of comics your mom gave to the next door neighbours kid held a copy of Star Wars issue one in mint condition?

These things hold monetary value, and yet we miss them. How much more when the value is less tangible? More personal? More spiritual or educational or historical or familial or …?

Indeed, how do we recognize value? It’s easy to apply a dollar cost, but these other  values? They are much harder to recognize, to express, to codify.

And yet, they are frequently the most, well, valuable. These things are what enrich us, make us better people. Stuff is easily destroyed, but experiences? Ideas? Emotional connections? These are what make us better people and are not so easily lost or discarded. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.