Rendered Fat Content


The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company advertisement, featuring P. T. Barnum's WhiteElephant Toung Taloung. (Circa 1885)
" … probable salvation to certain damnation in an instant of sober consideration."

While packing up the contents of her two towering china cabinets, The Muse was not surprised to find a few WhiteElephants hiding within them. Each WhiteElephant was once considered a unique and somewhat sacred beast but had somehow lost its context over the time since acquisition, to become a glaringly unique item in an increasingly homogenous collection. Each no longer seemed to belong. What she might have originally acquired as a unique, one-of-a-kind item, she would dispose of for essentially the same reason. The thrill attending original discovery dispersed over the intervening centuries to produce a genuine oddity no longer belonging within our zoo. How each came to this ignoble end seems unimportant, but as we pack up for HeadingHomeward, we're throwing off a surprising volume of once semi-sacred stuff.

I returned from my yesterday morning's run to the Goodwill Donation Center to report a casualty.
One item had not survived the passage. A brandy pipe (see illustration of an example below), originally a gift, had finally become a WhiteElephant and The Muse had charged me to safely transport it to Goodwill, where a fresh acolyte might discover it as their own unique treasure. It had somehow survived several previous HeadingsSomewhere, but neither of us knew precisely how, for it seemed as delicate and precarious as a spider's web. This time, it had seemed impossible to properly pack among the weighty ingots our other crockery seemed. How could one protect a butterfly wing among a collection of anything so much heavier? She chose not to attempt it, relegating it to a different plain of existence in someone else's towering china cabinet. It broke in transit with the slightest tinkle which I'd suspected from up front might have been the end of something. It became trash in an instant. Only a fool would have attempted repairing it. Ashes to ashes and all that, another treasure gone. The Muse reacted without emotion when I reported the incident, for she'd already divorced herself from her previous attraction to it. It carried no emotional content for her anymore. Its future had inhabited her past. She was already over it.

brandy pipe
Brandy Pipe

Most of the contents of this house seem to exist in some sort of pending WhiteElephant status. They're here because their attraction persists, and each of us seem to allow ourselves a certain indefinite number of items which might at any time step over some otherwise invisible line to be exiled. HeadingHomeward renders that line glaringly visible. In an instant, once treasures turn into trash, and HeadingHomeward provides a context within which a certain heartlessness prevails. To Hell with history, whatever great mystery first created the attraction perhaps too easily evaporates when calculating the price of transporting in dollars per cubic foot. What might have simply remained a background possession, never sought and rarely seen, might then become eminently jettisonable. What once contributed to a sense of net worth turns into a taxable liability, a poisonous possession. I play no dirges when driving another load to the drop-off center, for I feel as though I'm liberating myself from something. My heartlessness astounds me because I'm usually so sentimentally … Schmaltzy!

Should this civilization ever end, I suspect its demise will not come about due to deprivation. We're unlikely to starve ourselves into submission, but acquire ourselves into it instead. I will wonder until my end how I came to become the strange attractor of so damned many curiosities. Those Zip-lock® baggies I so thoughtfully hoarded for reuse came to fill an entire kitchen cupboard and eventually just get discarded, ultimately not worth transporting to the next destination and not recyclable, either. How in the hell did we manage to half-fill a kitchen drawer with rubber bands? With the best of intentions and one at a time, same as any road to Perdition. I have papers I cannot bear to read but also cannot quite bear to discard. These, I will carefully pack and label so that I might continue being unable to bear to read them on the other side. I intend this time to leave behind my broken-backed turning fork and my tine-less garden rake, deciding after long serving as their overly-dedicated protector, that I might just acquire new ones should I ever find I need another again. Neither has worked since I can't remember when and the price of my continuing fealty to them now seems to have been a form of wishful-imagining insanity. WhiteElephants own us until we get fed up with the indenture and break out. From probable salvation to certain damnation in an instant of sober consideration.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

blog comments powered by Disqus

Made in RapidWeaver