Work by Gerard Scanlan
Why is that we like boxes so much? Is it the mystery of the object inside? Or do we identify with their protective nature? Why are we so keen to put things in boxes? I have rarely seen anyone put in a box (well no-one in a position to protest), yet people often warn others not to put them into a box. Perhaps that is indeed a fear of death. If you let people put you in a box, there will be no way for you to really escape it. Of course, usually you can climb out of a real box. But a mental box exists only in the mind and for as long as people imagine it is there. This goes someway to explaining the anxiety people experience when they discover or even suspect they have been put in a box by others.
But this is all taking a rather negative direction. A recurring nightmare for some is waking in a box. So let me extoll the benefits of the box. If you have been given a gift, the sense of occasion is always heightened if it is in a box. A gift in a bag is nice, but never has the same impact. The same is true for other things in life, where a bag might even be preferable to a box. Even so, the box still wins. Shoe bag or box? Jewellery bag or box?
Boxes are a relatively modern invention. No, not last week, but in the scheme of things they are new. Before the box, we had the bag and the pot. In simpler times, because I have yet to discover anywhere in ancient literature that a wise elder cried ‘come on people, beyond the pot’. Nor did anyone shout ‘don’t try and pop me in a bag’. Did no-one need a less complicated way to solve problems before the box? Were pre-box times altogether happier? I am not so sure this is the case. I think the wonderful box is, due to its popularity, often in the wrong place at the wrong time and it gets caught in the crossfire.
I am thinking out of the box.