I have more than occasionally felt a strange compassion for things. I have felt some form of sadness for abandoned things, and some sort of joy for the right treatment of things. Non-living objects are so unconditional, so true to themselves that they are not deceitful. I sometimes felt weirdly guilty about this, like a denial of my own worth, or the higher worth of living things. I now think this is entirely misguided.

Things are more honest and wholesome in a sense. There is no volition apparent in them other than the one of their creator, but even this is only a secondary perspective to the material reality that they are. They are there, bare, and wholly seen, entirely presenting of their whole self. In this way, they are higher than us.

I have always loved the idea of things having some form of a home, and it primarily came to me as a way of working on my memory. My pen lives in this bag, and this bag lives under the chair in the study. It’s true I crave to give things some form of order, but I also believe in the value that they give me and what I therefore owe in return. These things always provide, and never reproach.

I feel a sort of judgement of people who mistreat things. I do not see it as very different from how they would treat people. Someone who would toss something around, destroy it gratuitously, or let it fall to ruin with neglect, could not be far from seeing people in the same way. Surely, some part of them does eventually see a person in the object which presents itself to them, but it seems to me sometimes a conditioned response, and not an earnest one. Thus, people treat each other like slot machines — something in and something out — and develop foolhardy notions. They say, “I bought you this,” and we smile. My smile confirms to me that “you care about me, I am happy,” while it confirms to them that “people only care about gifts and money.”

I find that people who are truly compassionate are indiscriminate. They shoot first. To me, it is not sufficient, but necessary to be indiscriminate to be really compassionate. 

I see how someone might pick up a book, a phone, a water bottle, and I see how they would treat their dog, their friends, their mothers, their strangers. When someone is pained by the abandonment of something, the waste of something, they are pained beyond themselves, beyond the use of the thing; they are simply pained.

Things can hold memories that the mind cannot harbour. Things can hold adventures, nostalgias, mementos. Things can be the fresh air, and the sun; they can be the stern look, and the heartbreak. Language holds the substance of the mind in words, things hold the substance of the heart in feelings. A rose is a rose is a friend is a lover.

If all things are really all things, would we extend to forms and colours and people and things all the love we have? Would we see in the thing the every-thing?

Would you be lost? Would you be home?

“There are mountains hidden in jewels; there are mountains hidden in marshes, mountains hidden in the sky; there are mountains hidden in mountains.” 

- Dōgen (1200–1253), Japanese Buddhist priest