When Things Get Old

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We live in a largely replaceable society. We consume, and typically before something has even seen its entire lifespan, we replace it. Think about your iPhone, your shoes, your car.

iPhones stop working well long before they actually break due to constant upgrades where the software is too much for the device (or some secret conspiracy by Apple to get us to upgrade…).

Most people won’t wear a pair of shoes until a hole arrives, and fewer still will have their shoes resoled.

Cars should be replaced every two years, or so commercials for leasing the latest vehicle to park itself and tell you where to go would have me believe.

At some point in my adult life I grew weary with replacing. As a product of 90’s grunge and punk rock, even as an adolescent I was interested in the dirtier, the grittier, the grimier side of life. Used has always equated valuable to me.

When you purchase something that’s already been used, you’re essentially doubling it’s life…an even better alternative to preserving this grand planet of ours than recycling. But whether I purchase an item new or used, I rarely replace it before it’s time.

This new Macbook Pro I’m typing on was only purchased after my 6 year old former Mac’s keyboard stopped working altogether. The only jacket I own has holes in the elbows, which I’ll patch when the time comes but as winter is disappearing all over the northern hemisphere, such a task seems not exactly vital at the moment. I’m drinking coffee from a thrift store mug and looking at my youngest son, the only other member of our little family who’s awake at the moment, who is wearing the same clothes his older brother wore at this age.

We fish those clothes out of suitcases which are older than me. They’re sturdy, leather things that have survived 35 years or so on this planet due to their superior craftsmanship at birth. Unlike today’s plastic and rubberized suitcases with too many pockets and wheels and breakable, extendable handles, they weren’t built exclusively to make the life of some traveling vacationer easier a couple of trips a year. They were built to last, with minimal moving parts which were truly crafted by someone who cared about the quality of their work rather than pushed out through an assembly line. Because someone else used them before us, no additional animal hides needed to be tanned, no new petroleum needed converted to plastic.

They do not shine like a brand new Lego set fresh out of the box, no. But they are infinitely more beautiful to me because they don’t shine at all. They simply sit there, drab and dull and scratched and faded and holding our clothes. Our suitcases are utilitarian, like butlers who are happy to serve for nothing more than a place to stay and the promise that they won’t be discarded on a whim when we see some younger, blonder suitcases on display in an airport terminal.

I love old things, and I love watching things get old. As society progresses ever forward into the future, constantly on a course for more growth to sustain an economy that is bound to fail every now and again, less and less things will get old. Most stuff we’re making isn’t built well enough to every see old age, and even when it is, we’re often not patient enough to let it live a full life. That is why I treasure the things that get old the most, because they are rare, and therefore special.