Mad in Pursuit Notebook

bead collection

What Possessed You to Buy That Thing??? (Part 2)

Tue, 2.17.2015. (Cont'd from 2.16.15)

3. Purchase insanity. For the collector, buying is part of learning. It may also be a kind of religious insanity. I say "religioius" because there is a great deal of faith connected to diverting your mortgage payment into a strand of old beads. The beads have whispered their promise to you and you whisper back, I have faith that you are who you say you are... and I will do anything for you... to possess you... to know you more intimately... to learn your secrets. Like a married woman losing her head over a stranger, money is not all that is at stake. Principles and ethics can be compromised too. Below is a photo of a Roman glass necklace. The story of my overheated purchase is here.

Roman glass beads

What I didn't say in that story is that there might be an ethical shadow over those beads. Given the origins of the store owner and most of his stock, the beads were likely excavated in somewhere along the old trade routes from Syria through Iraq (Mesopotamia) to Iran (Persia). In some circles, purchasing anything of archaeological significance is, if not illegal, certainly politically incorrect. Nevermind that there are a bazzillion ancient glass beads strewn across the planet. Purchasing them removes them from their context (the place where they were dug up) and deprives archaeologists of data (e.g, were the beads part of a burial rite or among household possessions or in the trash pit?). Purchasing them encourages even more pillaging by uneducated peasants looking to make a buck (or by peasants with Sotheby's auction catalogs in their back pockets).

But in the heat of the moment, in the thrall of "aesthetic arrest,*" the lover does not ask questions of the beloved. We are here, just you and I, on Second Avenue in Manhattan. What do we know of the world and its problems? Like the mystic poet Rumi says,

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about. **

4. Tell me your secrets. Once the collector has spirited her beloved to its new home, they can continue their dialogue in private. It's a time to hit the reference books and the internet to absorb all the objective learning available. Then there is the subjective learning--handling; wearing; examining with a jeweler's loupe in daylight, on a light box, by candlelight--achieving intimacy, bonding. Under magnification, sometimes a bead will reveal a small marvel. A tiny carved triangle of quartz, excavated from the ancient African city of Djenne, reveals the dot-in-circle motif, a natural occurence of the universal sign for the sun since time immemorial. (More about that here>>>)

excavated quartz bead Africa

Continued>>> | POSSESSED! Archives


PHOTO, top. A sampling of beads from the collection.

* "Moment of aesthetic arrest" is a Joseph Campbell phrase, describing the seizure of romantic love outside the prescribed rituals of sacraments and arranged marriages.

** Barks, Coleman. A Year with Rumi(p. 313). HarperOne. Kindle Edition, 2009.


Books by Susan Barrett Price:

THE SUDDEN SILENCE: A Tale of Suspense and Found Treasure (2015) Thailand: lovers of ancient treasure tangle with international black markets. Delia Rivera pulls Martin Moon back into the game and their quest turns deadly. In paperback and Kindle editions.

TRIBE OF THE BREAKAWAY BEADS: Book of Exits and Fresh Starts (2011) Time after time, Mary asks herself: Do I go or do I stay? She finds her power in her ancestors: Smart women turn discontent into action. An illustrated memoir in paperback and Kindle editions.

PASSION AND PERIL ON THE SILK ROAD: A Thriller in Pakistan and China (2008) The twin forces of revenge and redemption drive Nellie MacKenzie and Taylor Jackson on a crazed adventure into the heart of Central Asia. They grapple with issues of ethics, trust, rage, and bitter heartbreak -- as well as the intrigue of the international antiquities trade. In paperback and Kindle editions.



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