The Life of the Bead

Dear Diary,

Wonder if all this spiritual angst people go on about is really just a nagging, subterranean feeling of guilt.

According to Christian philosophy, the love of beautiful things like beads and fashionable clothes is just trivial and materialistic. There is a deep, deep-grained antipathy to ‘materialism’ in our Christian-valued society. So much so that I find it hard to shake off.

Life_of_Beads_2015-08-11 16.22.01I found myself feeling happy just because I found and bought the ideal little strand of colourful Murano glass beads, on sale for only $50 AUD. Bright yellow they are, with lively little dots of colour: vivid red, dark blue, light blue and green. Perfect for brightening up a plain white Tee with jeans.  Then I felt I shouldn’t feel happy about such things and immediately felt guilt for being so trivial and materialistic and was unhappy with myself, for not being ‘good’ or ‘high-minded’.

But Homo Sapiens have been making beads for tens of thousands of years.  Archeologists have recently uncovered an extensive and lively trade in beads during Stone Age Europe, concurrent with our earliest art works.

Prehistoric shell bead necklace.

Cro-Magnon necklace, France, 32-22,000 BCE.
(Photo by Didier Descouens, Wikkimedia)

Our long vanished cousins, the Neanderthals and the mysterious Denisovans even appear to have had a penchant for making personal adornments.

Trade in fashionable items and works of art is a force for good, a peaceful activity that cuts across cultures and cross-pollinates them.  Never underestimate the power of The Bead.

Thus beads have a mystical significance and behind every good piece a woman might own that she likes, there is a story behind it – how she came across them, why she liked them, who might have given them to her.  Memories hang on strings of beads as surely as the beads themselves.

‘But it’s just a bead!’ an invisible voice scolds.  Ah the mystery!  I would love to find my way out of the maze of Christian ‘values’ and work out just why love of material things is so ‘bad’.

It might be that beads breed greed and covetousness.  But there is enough of that around anyway. In fact, if we just relaxed and took pleasure in The Bead, maybe our guilt trip would not go into overdrive and we would not then go and buy a truckload of beads to compensate, but be content with a few.

Image of Coco Chanel (Author Marion Golsteijn, Source Wikkimedia)

Image of Coco Chanel (Author Marion Golsteijn, Source Wikkimedia)

The French seem to have this pleasure in artful adornments in balance with the course and purpose of their lives.  Maybe I should read more of my book ‘How to be a Parisian’ that my sister Cathie gave me.  But I’ve really also got to find a way for myself – out of the soul-deadening tedium and anguish of Christian guilt – learn to enjoy the little things in life in moderation – without guilt.

– Megan

PS: I remember seeing a bracelet in an art exhibition of ancient Egyptian treasures.  I cannot remember much of it but one bead of the bracelet was a large hunk of beautiful, almost transparent and luminous lapis lazuli, with a seal insignia carved on it, that was apparently from the deserts of Persia and already of immense antiquity when it was put in the bracelet, thousands of years ago.

Necklace of colourful Murano glass beadsIt took my breath away to imagine that astonishing length of largely unrecorded time that people went about their daily lives in – trading, working, playing, creating art. Surely no bead that evoked such thoughts and imaginings could ever be completely trivial.

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