Wandering around Victoria BC on a blue-sky day a few months ago, I was on the lookout for photography opportunities. Failing to see any grasses atop stone walls, I was momentarily stumped.
But the ever-helpful photography gods are never far off, and so — in a Love-the-one-you’re-with sort of way — I began to notice signs, built into the very buildings themselves. Signs that no longer applied to what was within; signs for businesses that had simply moved on or gone the way of all flesh.
They were from another era to be sure. As I wandered, taking photos, I wondered idly when businesses dropped the “in perpetuity” assumption that seemed implicit in these signs. When did they stop carving and chiseling their names above the doors, and start painting them on windows instead, the better to scrape them off, My Dear?
Now, I could have thought about the impermanence simultaneously afflicting and benefiting business: the challenges and opportunities from demographic and technological change, competition from new places, and the insatiable desire for novelty that our means of production can finally feed, if not exactly satisfy.
Or I could have thought about the impermanence simultaneously afflicting and benefiting society: family breakdown, as well as the freedom to pursue heart’s-desire careers in far-away places and to take on more-flexible roles that let more people be who they were born to be.
But it really is all about me. And so I thought, instead, on the impermanence in my own life — relocations, ups and downs with friends-and-relations, career shifts, changing interests and beliefs — and whether and how it afflicts or benefits my being. I wondered what things I daub on my windows each year, to be scraped off and replaced without any concern or lasting loss. And I wondered what things I carve over my lintel: what things are permanently me, even though I, like those long-gone businesses, am not exactly a permanent resident myself.