#495: ON FEELING CLEAN *
Ever since I was old enough to handle a butter knife with any amount of control, I have been taking things apart. As a kid, I hid this behaviour and would secretly squirrel away broken calculators and garage door openers from the trash.
When I found my father's set of miniature screwdrivers in their little plastic box with the clear top, I was so happy. They were exactly what I needed to get around having to wear tears in metal casings when I couldn't work the tiny screws out.
I would lay newspaper out on my basement bedroom floor and start working at first removing the plastic or metal casing. Then, I would fully separate the inner workings from the outside pieces and attempt to break the insides down into their smallest component parts.
Breaking an object down into its component parts could be difficult. Sometimes the moulded plastic exterior would have been formed around the plastic piece that held the on/off switch, or some soldering would tear away a thinner plastic layer on a piece of circuitry. I would have to make concessions and relax about the purity of the dismantling.
Scissors or a sharp knife would sometimes have to be employed, although they tainted the singleness of purpose and the feeling of completeness that I felt when I could lay each individual piece aside, one next to the other, without having had to corrupt them. Seeing each thing separated from the original puzzlework, distinct, its part revealed, seemed to make more sense somehow than when the object, possibly a coffeemaker or a remote control, was one larger thing that behaved at the behest of its buttons and lids and batteries.
I wanted everything apart. When things were broken down into pieces, I could see all of them, their insides and outsides. There was no more thinking about them: how did they work, what colours were their different parts, were all their parts made in the same country, would any scrap of difference be inside them like a note or a human hair; these concerns were all taken care of with the dismantling. There was no more. It was all done.
It was like becoming clean.
My attention would be so fixed upon the destruction, so solely pointed, that I would not hear or think other thoughts. I would hold my breath and then have to sigh to get enough air. And I would feel cleaner and cleaner and cleaner.
To take something whole, a solid and familiar thing, to break it down piece by piece methodically and surgically, to lay out each of its parts so that it no longer resembled itself, so that it was no longer itself, and to witness each piece separate, sometimes surprisingly beautiful, and unpurposed created a feeling of deep clarity in my mind. The obsessive orderliness of it unburdened me.
Afterward, my skin would feel cool to the touch and my own breathing sounded crisp to my ears. I could walk and talk, and my body would not weigh soddenly against my spirit.
I would feel light and clean, unfolded and simple.
* The photographs in this entry are of the insides of a digital camera that the Fiery One took apart. I'm generous that way. Sometimes.