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The Laughing Cabinet and Other Friends

Feb 25, 2007
Kimmy Sophia Brown
Some people think that inanimate objects are alive. I did when I was a kid. I couldn’t throw my bicycle down on the ground because I thought I’d hurt its feelings. I didn’t throw stuffed animals. I saw faces in door hinges and lampshades and shoes. If I had known how to draw I could have become a Disney animator.

When I got older I poo-pooed such thoughts and allowed myself such liberties as throwing a ceramic cup at the wall when angry, ala a Gina Lollabrigida temper tantrum in an Italian movie. But I got little pangs of conscience when I did so. My logical process figured that if God made everything then everything is made of energy and if God is alive then all things must have some sort of life force too - or feelings - hence, the guilt.

There’s a yard I drive past that has two blue plastic chairs facing the road. I find myself acknowledging them when I drive by as if they are an old, plastic, blue couple watching the traffic. One day I passed by and saw one of the chairs tipped over. I wondered if it was all right. Another time I drove by and saw two, retired old men sitting on the blue chairs and their placing made sense. I still have the urge to wave when I pass them empty.

We have a cabinet in our office in which we store supplies. When anyone walks through the room the hinges make a squeaking noise that sounds like laughter. At first it was very annoying. We tried WD40. We used tape. We tried various solutions to get the squeaking to stop. Now we have accepted it like an eccentric worker.

My son passes through the room and comments, “The laughing cabinet is mocking me again, Mom,” as the hyper “ha ha ha -ing” illicits forth. We’ve given up on silencing it. It has become as endearing as the broken railing knob that George Bailey found so infuriating and yet so affectionately familiar in the film, “It’s a Wonderful Life”.

For some reason we’ve placed the toaster under the smoke alarm in the kitchen. Predictably every time an innocent pair of toast slices have finished toasting, the alarm goes off piercing our eardrums. Some of us used to react with anger, screaming for it to shut up as we ran to push the silence button. Then we decided to name the smoke alarm and we say, “Thank you Rumsfeld,” when it goes off. It makes one much more peaceful if one thanks and acknowledges all the little mechanical devices that quietly do their jobs.

Men have addressed their cars and ships as “she” from time immemorial. When a motor hums smoothly, one might say, “She runs like a dream.” So the attribution of living characteristics to the inanimate is not really so uncommon. When we polish our car it seems to run better. When we keep our house nice it seems to look proud of itself. Why is there a difference between a neglected, abandoned house and a house that’s well cared for? I’ve noticed a different feeling coming from a brand new house standing empty and a house that is lived in. The vacant house seems sad - like a wandering, starved, abandoned dog.

I have no scientific evidence for this. It just feels true. If one extrapolates these feelings to the nth degree, then passing a dump, or litter on the road, or broken things, can make one feel tremendous grief over the creation which is enduring the blight of the garbage, and then grief for the litter itself which has been so casually undervalued and discarded. I’m sure this fits in with the Third blessing in Genesis that bids us to “...fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth...” We humans are slow learners but eventually we may treat the earth and all that is in it with the care we give our houses and cars.

And as long as Pixar and Disney and others continue to animate the inanimate, we may eventually coexist in mutual happiness with our Brave Little Toasters and the like. Listen closely and you may hear the music of the spheres running like a dream. And if all this seems like balderdash, I’m sure the pharmaceutical companies can sell you something to silence the voices. But can they do something about our laughing cabinet?

Kimmy Sophia Brown has loved humor and music and freedom for as long as she can remember.She is especially passionate about the environment and caring for animals.

She writes the column "From the Back Porch" as well as reviews of music in her column "MusicViews". Her goal in her music reviews is to introduce music she loves to people who may not have heard that particular artist or CD. For information about how to submit a CD for review, click here.

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