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Everything is trash / by Liana Hell Lean

There is a Japanese principle called Wabi-sabi in which things are beautiful because they are transient. Western life is emerged in a culture that is seemingly sentimental yet emotionless, wanting the beautiful things to stay without expressing too many feelings about why it is so important that they stay. This culture values tangibility and objects, and it is materialistic above all. There is no aim and no end to what we are told to buy, as long as we buy it. Does anybody actually care if we keep what we buy, and does the object we buy really matter? To some degree, I think we all ponder the answers to these questions. Throughout the year and especially during the summer, I began to think more deeply about what it means to own an object. Along with this, I also began thinking more about transience and impermanence, and how they related to materialism. As this thought process continued, I treated myself to fewer and fewer material objects, thinking heavily about my consumer intake and whether what I bought really mattered to me. The basis for this thought process was on a sort of motto that I created for myself: everything is trash.

The idea that everything is trash means that everything material or otherwise is going to get dirty or ruined in some way, and that everything physical that we care about is somehow going to end up as literal trash. As I thought more and more about this, I became obsessed with the image of trash. I began stopping on the sidewalk to gaze wistfully at stinking bundles of black, white, and red plastic frying on the pavement. I became fanatical about what is somehow deemed ugly and disgusting: a ketchup packet that had exploded on the hot Allston sidewalk, a flattened beer can in a dirt yard, a washed up shirt encrusted in mud and shit. Why did people hate these things so much? Clearly, and for obvious reasons, it is hard for people to come to terms with the fact that everything around us is ever-changing and ever-moving, and most people reject what is deemed to be disgusting.

Thinking about trash and the temporary nature of objects led me to thinking about the temporary nature of situations -- something that any resident of my city, Boston, is bound to think about. Growing up in an area where people come and go more frequently than in most places, you see every change. Friends leave, and the spaces they occupied become vacant shells. Homes, basements, and warehouses that were once home to the shows you longed to go to most, disappear without much notice. Especially in the context of D.I.Y spaces, it is hard not to build deep emotional connections with the places and people associated with community, and yet it is part of the community's nature for it's members and spaces to be impermanent. This creates an interesting dynamic, very similar to that of Wabi-sabi, though it appears in a much different context.

If everything is trash, it is transient. If everything is transient, it is crucial to notice what builds our surroundings. Making connections with these surroundings is just as important, because if what is around us does not last, we must be ready to take advantage of passing but important situations at a moments notice. We must accept that there is beauty in giving things up when the time comes, and that many things will become trash, and become ruined. Many hide from this reality, and fail to realize how vital it is to be immersed in a world where everything has a temporary nature. It is important that we don’t hide, and that we recognize the fleeting beauty in situations, and in objects. It is important to acknowledge that everything is trash, because in the end, if everything lasts forever, where is the excitement?

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