Over at NYU’s Material World blog, I couldn’t help falling in love with a recent post that excerpts a letter from Sigmund Freud to his fiancee about objects, meaning, and emotion. He writes:
“Tables and chairs, beds, mirrors, a clock to remind the happy couple of the passage of time, an armchair for an hour’s pleasant daydreaming, carpets to help the housewife keep the floors clean, linen tied with pretty ribbons in the cupboard and dresses of the latest fashion and hats with artificial flowers, pictures on the wall, glasses for everyday and others for wine and festive occasions, plates and dishes, a small larder in case we are suddenly attacked by hunger or a guest, and an enormous bunch of keys–which must make a rattling noise. And there will be so much to enjoy, the books and the sewing table and the cosy lamp, and everything must be kept in good order or else the housewife, who has divided her heart into little bits, one for each piece of furniture, will begin to fret. And this object must bear witness to the serious work that holds the household together, that object to a feeling for beauty, to dear friends one likes to remember, to cities one has visited, to hours one wants to recall. And all this, a small world of happiness, of silent friends and proofs of lofty human values, is as yet only in the future; not even the foundation of the house has been laid, there is nothing but two poor human creatures who love one another to distraction. Are we to hang our hearts on such little things? Yes, and without hesitation.”
It was enlightening for me to see how much material culture fits into our daily lives and how we attribute meaning in a variety of ways to objects. I won’t lie and say that I read this letter and thought of it in completely anthropological terms; Freud’s letter to his fiancee struck a romanticized chord with me. I think in our daily lives it’s far too easy to forget how objects can embody meaning. In an age where love letters (the old handwritten ones) have been converted to an email here and there, it’s easy to lose the expression of emotions through technology, as much as we use technology to enhance such emotions.
I suppose if I learned anything from this little insightful post, it was that “things, objects, and stuff” can and will evoke memories and ideas that so often one glosses over.