A meditation on impermanence

I think we had gone to the thrift store to drop off some furniture, but we decided to go in and dig around.  My favorite part of any thrift store is the “smalls” section, where they put all the random stuff that doesn’t really seem to fit into any particular category.  I like digging  through the random trinkets that say things like, “leadership,” or keychains from the 2003 Santa Clarita Softball League Championships.

Sneezing from the dust and pondering the possible effects of the odd smell that seemingly all thrift stores have, I found something amazing:

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It was a one-of-a-kind Snap-on highball glass.  I have an affinity for bourbon, and this glass was a beacon dripping with intrigue, a vessel of transportation to fantastical wheated-mash journeys.  It was also an object that said “Snap-on” on it that I could afford.

I found a perfect piece of Americana.  It was like an eagle carrying a hamburger. Somehow, someone did not see the value in this glass and gave it to goodwill, and now it was mine.  It would enter into the stuff-tournament of my life (whereby we gain, employ, keep or discard our stuff.  Only the strong stuff survives).

The glass is about 4 inches tall, and about 4 inches in diameter–a pleasingly square proportion.  The glass walls are thin but sturdy, and the thick base of the glass insulates the drink in addition to providing a nice heft in one’s hand.

I have come to love this glass.  I don’t let others touch it or wash it. It is kept deep on the shelf, where no one grabs it when they need an ordinary drink of water.  I drink from it maybe a couple times per month, or as the need arises.  I am deeply grateful for this object and I cherish what amounts to probably gallons of bourbon that have been transported by it over the past eight or so years that I have owned this etched cylinder.

A funny thought has entered my mind though lately: Someday, this glass will leave.  There is nothing that would make me discard this glass in its current form.  I would obviously sell it for a high enough price, but short of this no reasons could arise that will make me voluntarily leave this Snap-on glass behind.  This Snap-on glass will win the stuff tournament.  But no matter what, as much as I savor this glass, I have come to realize that the glass will be destroyed at some point.  A slippery soap bubble will pull it from my grasp; I will have one too many bourbons and backhand it off the table during some gesticulation; I will trip on my way to the patio with my bourbon and it will fly out of my hand.  Even if I do not break the glass, the glass will still be destroyed at some point by a different fate and a different owner.  Even if the glass outlives me, where will its next owner find it? Will this person savor the glass the same way, or will he put it back in the thrift store where I found it? This Snap-on glass is doomed.

I began having these thoughts about a year ago, some time after my mom died.  The Buddhists have their four noble truths, one of which is that everything dies.  It is a real bummer, but it is true.  When I was first studying Buddhism, I remember just thinking that the four noble truths were a neat idea, a nice exercise to consider.  It was not until recently however, that I realized how, ahem, true they are.  With the Snap-on glass, I realized: “oh yeah, this is one of the things that that thing refers to.”  This glass will leave my grasp at some point, there is just no way around it.

Ever since then, I have been making a point to savor each moment with the glass, to sip more carefully, to feel the nerve endings in my fingers encoding the weight, texture and condensation on the glass.  I like to scan the engraving with my fingers and try to feel each letter.  In the end there is nothing I can do to save this glass; its natural state is of the earth, and I am just borrowing it from the sand that once made it.  I cannot know when it will leave my grasp, but I do know that it has not happened yet today and for that I am grateful.

Drink up.

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