I just received in the mail my first in a long time ridiculously expensive relative to my income bracket purchase, perhaps the first ever that is not a bicycle. It’s way too nerdy and grown up of an item for such an event, but I’ve been staring at my new “upcycled wooden desk trays,” vintage distressed French country style, and feeling really happy ever since I opened the package. Perhaps nothing I’ve bought in my life has come with so many adjectives attached.
Let me express my appreciation for the word “upcycled.” I am generally not a fan of creating words unless you can do it as well as Roald Dahl, but upcycled is a brilliant marketing word, appealing to people’s vanity and environmental consciousness all at once.
I admire not only the description but also the physical presence of my desk trays. I like the size and shape of them, the heft, the way they’re cleverly slotted together. I like the unevenness of the paint and the yellow-green color that is more attractive than yellow-green has any business being.
The way buying new stuff can make us happy used to worry me. I have a complicated relationship with the physical, which I suspect I share with many Americans. On one hand, we are deluged with marketing telling us that our appearance matters more than anything else, and on the other, we hold onto our Puritan forebearers’ attitude that physical things are not particularly worthy or holy and possibly downright sinful.
But we are physical beings, and we are drawn to and enlivened by beauty of various types, many of which we experience through our senses. Few would argue that a painting by Rembrandt or Monet is shallow because its beauty is physical.
I’m not saying I’m going to sprinkle holy water on my desk trays (that would be blessed vintage distressed French country style), but I welcome them both for the enjoyment they’re already bringing me and for the reminder that beauty comes in many forms, and we need them all.