The Personification of Everything
A word I learned in my year 8 English class.
“It’s when you give human characteristics to objects” my teacher explained. I was sat at my desk twirling my gel pen in my hand, not realising I was accidentally inking myself in the process.
“That’s so stupid!” a girl next to me cried, sniggering to her friends while they rolled their eyes at the mere thought of something being beyond their understanding.
I turned away from them, falling into my own reverie of how many times I had unknowingly personified everything around me.
Take the desk in front of me for example. I had walked into class an hour before and hit my knee against it’s leg. In my anger, I swore loudly and bore down on the desk with an open palm, smacking it’s surface hard. To my dismay, the table did not groan in pain, nor did it apologise for being in my way. It simply stood in its defiant state, unapologetic and strong.
It struck me then, as I considered my teacher’s explanation, that I had attributed a human quality to the inanimate object in front of me. It had caused me pain and I felt the need to do the same to it - as illogical as that sounds.
I smiled at how relevant her explanation was. Just the other day, when I had finished a meal at home, I knocked a plastic cup off of the counter and it crashed to the floor. In my haste, I told it to shhhhhh! even though of course, a plastic cup is not responsible for the noise it makes.
Coming out of my reverie in class, I was surprised at how often this happens day to day. I seem to give emotion, quality and thought to anything and everything: human or not.
And why is this?
I still don't know - and I still do it.
The only thing I do know is that maybe it’s the reason why I have a hard time getting rid of a lot of objects around my home. Or maybe this is only because everything to me has a story to tell. But then again, this is a human quality - objects cannot tell stories - we attribute it to them.
We give things meaning.
The table that was in my way? I gave it meaning by being angry at it. I made it seem more alive than it was. The plastic cup? It did nothing but what it was meant to: fall victim to gravity and make a sound on it’s way.
The personification of objects is something that I hope we all do, because to me it means that we are capable of caring for things that do nothing to care for us. We give them meaning in the hope that they will understand us and even though we know it is impossible. We still swear at the remote control when it falls off the couch. We still give thanks to our computers when they auto-save the document we were working on. We still cry when we discover a scratch on our cars.
We cannot help but attribute our own qualities to the things around us. I guess maybe it’s our way of trying to understand the world.