Landmarks and Altars, Imagery and Language : Our Inherent Need to Remember That Chefmaster Makes Crappy Makers

5:22 AM – Sometimes foul seems to have brewed . . . . .


“Remove not the ancient landmark which your fathers have set.” Proverbs 22:28

Our ten dollar coffee maker, made by the Chefmaster Company and purchased at our local Target Gigantoplex, died this morning at the ripe old age of nine weeks. I expected to get at least ten weeks for ten bucks, but, as it would appear, I’m a whimsical consumer with lofty expectations. If the dying of my Chefmaster is a result of planned obsolescence, I perceive they set there clocks a wee soon.

I wrote Friday about abstract emotions and concrete imagery, and about our need to contain language that is both worldly and personal. This thing about imagery and language is something I think about a lot as a teacher, as a writer, and as an overly emotional guy. I remember one time being in a couple’s Bible study where one guy in the group found it helpful to journal everyday about his emotions. He admitted to feeling disconnected from his wife and even his own heart. He said, “I’ve started carrying my journal around and I’ve started making little notes during the day of when I feel things. I’m trying to write down everything I know I feel.” I heard this and laughed and said, “Shit, if I tried that I’d never get anything done.” Proust would appear a practitioner of flash fiction were I to keep a journal of my every emotion.

One of my favorite “family traditions” from the Old Testament, which you see a lot in the beginning, is the Lord’s insistence that Israel build landmarks to remind themselves and their children and their children’s children of the Lord’s fulfilled promises and provisions. This the children of Israel stop and do after nearly every battle, after every parted water scenario, and after finally obtaining the Promised Land. It’s funny that God knew how feeble human devotions truly are, that even after all those clouds by day and fireballs by night and walls of ocean and crumbling Jerichos and tents full of circumcision (that last part seems fairly memorable) God knew that Israel needed concrete reminders of His covenant. They’d soon forget. They’d soon be off in the woods worshipping fairies and fauns and each other’s happy parts.

There’s even this great story in Joshua’s memoir about the Reubenites and the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh going out to build an alter “of great size” that appeared so questionable to the rest of Israel that a fight nearly broke out – And when the people of Israel heard of it, the whole assembly of the people of Israel gathered at Shiloh to war against them. (Joshua 22:12) Funny thing, it was all just a misunderstanding. Israel thought that the Reubens and the Gad and half-Mans were building altars to lower-case gods. And considering that these were people fresh off a lifestyle of mass murder and pillage, killing even the cows and the kids of an entire people, the Reubens and the Gads and the half-Mans had to quickly assure, “No, no, no! This altar is for the capital-letter God, your God! We’re making a landmark to show our kids! We call it Dadaism!” Then all of Israel had a good laugh, apologized, clapped each other on the shoulder, and went home to circumcise something.

The point here being that these people took their altars and landmarks and concrete reminders seriously. So much so that if one people group designed their reminder in a questionable, Marcel Duchamp type fashion, they were in danger of massive attack. The people from Chefmaster really should hear this story.

The need for concrete reminders seems to be hardwired in us as human race. We love to remember and we’re afraid we’ll forget. So we buy souvenirs on vacation, t-shirts at concerts, picture frames at Wal-Greens, guilty pleasure CDs on the discount rack. We tattoo our skin and decorate our home and put stickers on our vehicles and name our pets or children in tribute. We keep heirlooms and mementos and trinkets in the form of jewelry from ancestors, furniture from family, old letters from past friends and ex-lovers. And sometimes we host elaborate rituals to erect and to exchange concrete symbols of abstract intentions, many of which we soon misplace the value, such as birthday parties with cakes and graduations with diplomas and weddings with rings and funerals with deep holes in the ground. We make art and we make our art available to people, and we lie, unconvincingly, saying we make that art for ourselves and be damned if no one likes it. And in our modern age we record and photograph and sentence size everything to fit our screens because if we can’t socially share our moments they might as well have never happened.

We inherently do these silly things because we feel deeply and we forget easily and, even if we live a long life, we die sooner than we would prefer, certainly before we ever made ourselves as known as we had hoped.

I can add to my collection of concrete imagery this morning a broken coffee maker. Here’s my disappointment and my longing, my addiction made plastic and obsolete. And I can add these words scribbled out blindly on the slippery edges of a waking mind. Here’s my discipline and my hope, my language mangled locked and loaded. Be damned if no one likes it.


About Kiki Malone

Girding till the break of dawn.
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4 Responses to Landmarks and Altars, Imagery and Language : Our Inherent Need to Remember That Chefmaster Makes Crappy Makers

  1. Chad says:

    Fascinating, Kiki. Do you think this need for concrete reminders is little more than our desire to slip the bonds of death?

    • Kiki Malone says:

      As a person who really loves stuff, and as someone who tends a bit towards the melodramatic and likes to adhere poetic value to my stuff – possibly as a therapeutic justification, I tend to think we enjoy our reminders, primarily, because they feel good and look pretty. For instance, I have several old horror VHS tapes (Teen Wolf, Teen Wolf Too, Army of Darkness, Halloween III: Season of the Witch, the entire Nightmare on Elm Street box set) on display in my office. Tapes I never intend to watch again, partly because I own them on DVD and partly because their watchability is irrelevant to their value as kitsch. They’re here simply to remind me of some old art that I have relished in the past. If I were the child-bearing type, I would give these tapes to that offspring and say, “Here’s a portion of my portion. Don’t hock these.” I’m super aware that I’ll die, possibly sooner than I’d prefer, but I’m far more aware that I currently and physically participate, via my residence and my freewill, towards the proliferation of a capitalist regime. Consumption is a right worth defending – far more than bearing arms or navigating an airport unfrisked.

  2. Chad says:

    “Consumption is a right worth defending” that gives me a bad shiver. Of course, today, I’ve purchased and consumed 20 oz’s of coffee and 12 oz’s of granola. I’ve sent that 12oz plastic container of granola on to the landfill where it will never biodegrade. It’s like a memorial to my morning of April 23rd, 2013. I can revisit it and remember, “I ate granola on this day.” The 20oz coffee went into a reusable “Project Green Thumb” stainless steel coffee tumbler before i drank it. So, I can’t memorialize the coffee as easily.

    I came up with this idea a year ago that when a new American is birthed, he or she should be granted a limited supply of ‘landfill credits’. I envision these credits as looking like those raffle tickets that come in a long roll. Everyone has a limited number and as you go through life discarding things, you have to spend your landfill tickets. So, all those lumps of molded plastic I played with as a kid (i.e. Star Wars action figures) those would take maybe a half credit each. But things like Mr. Coffee would take a few more credits. Every non-biodegradable piece of shit that you purchase (granola cups) would take some credit away. After a while, you’d have to make some really tough decisions, like, I can’t possibly get a new, whizbanging whirly gigger because I don’t have enough landfill credits to get rid of my old one.

    People who are really prudent could also make extra money selling their extra landfill credits.

    • Kiki Malone says:

      I shall point you towards the film “In Time”, starring the lovely and angelic, Amanda Seyfried. Same concept. Different currency. I’ve done pretty well today, minus the fact that I may have a busted Chefmaster coffee pot on my hands. So far all my consumption has been biodegradable or recyclable. I’m surrounded with crap in my office, but I’ll give it to Goodwill so another poor lump can define himself by my crap. It’s a never-ending circle. And I’ll send you a few of my landfill credits to pad your granola habits.

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