Banks County Opinions...

NOVEMBER 10, 2004


Column

By: Rochelle Beckstine
The Banks County News
November 10, 2004

No value in useless treasure
Growing up with a sister just 13 months younger meant that we did nearly everything together. And, as is the case with most girls, we were into Barbie dolls. With two of us together, we had twice the Christmases and twice the birthdays of a normal girl so we racked up.
I had the bedroom furniture and the vanity, she had the kitchen and the living room; together we had a full house. We had the horse and the red Ferrari and clothes that would make Ashley and Mary Kate jealous. (Some of the clothes even fit onto my mother’s kitten for a few months.) And we had fun.
But as is always the case, there came a period in our lives where Barbies weren’t IT and during which we moved several times in the space of a few years. When the dust settled around our new house and we bothered to look, most of our stash was gone, falling victim to mildew or the failure to pack it. Anyway you look at it—today our Barbie horde is depleted, the lone reminders left with a permanent wet smell that certainly diminishes their presentability at the fancy galas Barbie likes to throw.
Many people may say that what was lost was irreplaceable and I would agree. But I don’t need to replace it and I don’t need to mourn what was lost. My only regret is that someone else can’t make their own memories with my lost things.
Things are very different from people. There is a strand of pearls my sister and I dug up from our grandparents backyard when we were 6- and 7-years-old. Real pearls mired in the muddy creek bank. For a few weeks, we were true explorers who had found lost pirate treasure. I think we drew up maps for all the kids in our neighborhood so they could find treasure, too.
Long after she and I are no longer walking this Earth, the pearls probably will be here, perhaps being found again and again by explorers. Things can be much more everlasting than people who live and die in a nanosecond compared to the age of our Earth. And that doesn’t bother me. It’s comforting to know that things that I’ve loved and touched can be enjoyed by my descendants.
The pearls found decades ago have no monetary value to me but I do value them because I remember the feeling of digging for fresh dirt beside my sister, both of us amateur chefs preparing a dirt pie, and the wonder of finding a round smooth white orb. One of us pulled the strand free from the mud and we rushed to rinse it clean. I felt magnificent and every time I think about it again, I feel magnificent—drunk with a child’s delight at finding real buried treasure, so much better than just reading about it in a fairytale.
The only thing that could top that feeling would be preparing the field for another expedition, so that another child, perhaps my daughter or my sister’s future children can take their turn being the explorers. But if the pearls are lost tomorrow and I were never to see them again, I would be fine with that. Because even though the pearls spark a memory I will treasure forever, I don’t need the pearls to remember.
There is a long poem I read in Renaissance Literature that depicted a man who lived in a great house, surrounded by cultured gardens that were never walked in, by books whose spine was never broken and by more food than he could eat before it spoiled. According to the poet, the man was indeed a poor, poor man for he did not delight in what he owned. His possessions had no value because they were not enjoyed. The man found no joy in life so he spent all of his time amassing more and more things, thinking his life would feel rich when he filled all of his rooms, but what the rich man could not understand was that as long as the things were not being used, they added no value to his life, only to his list of possessions.
Rochelle Beckstine is a columnist for MainStreet Newspapers.

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Column

By: Jana Mitcham
The Banks County News
November 10, 2004

You’ve got mail, somewhere
I remember being very skeptical of the whole “email thing,” spouting off my theory (and that of many others at the time) that electronic mail would serve to only further detach and alienate people from one another in “our technological society.”
And it’s true to an extent that email distances us, even as it allows us to remain in contact. It’s easier to fire off an email than to pick up the phone, put pen to paper or set up time for a face-to-face visit. The content is not as satisfying, but it’s easier.
I will admit it, I am now just as guilty as everyone else when it comes to finding time — mutually compatible time, that is — to sit down with friends or to talk on the phone at night when everyone is winding down. Instead, I often rely on electronic mail as a means of staying “in touch.”
Everyone is busy, everyone has a “tight schedule,” it seems, so email is at least one quick way of reaching out.
From a work standpoint, email has made the collection of news easier — made the two-way reaching out much more accessible. Or, at least, it has made a prolific outpouring of news possible, particularly school news, now that schools have digital cameras and email access.
So maybe the theory about detachment and alienation via technology isn’t completely true, after all, at least from that perspective. Technology has allowed schools to capture more student faces on camera and to easily send in more stories about student achievement — the school news pages grow in number and still continue to fill up rapidly and the community’s awareness is expanded. There is a sort of connection there.
It’s not until that connection is broken that you realize just how dependent you have become.
I learned over the weekend that several people had been trying to email me notices at work, but that they got an error message every time, telling them that my mailbox was full.
Uh-oh, I thought, it’s going to be one of those Mondays when 50-plus school news emails come in, where the stories and photos “bing” in, one after the other, after the other.
But on Monday, when I started up my computer, there was no new mail. No blinking icon, no email alert sound.
Where was all the email? Where does it go? When it “bounces back,” does it come back again?
“You’ve got mail....somewhere,” the quiet in-box taunted.
I felt it out there, that mass of messages circling overhead, just waiting until the busiest time of day to pounce, “binging” my message browser over and over. But, it never happened.
I shut down my computer, twice, and sent out tentative feelers — anyone out there? By late afternoon, a few straggler emails came in, but not the expected rush.
That mail, out there somewhere, may still be circling around, looking for a place to land.
Jana Adams Mitcham is features editor of The Jackson Herald and a reporter for Mainstreet Newspapers, Inc.


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