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Keeping the Shiny Objects Shiny

final gem show thoughts, toward the metaphorical as so often

Keeping the Shiny Objects Shiny

The spectacle of the Gem Show--the enormous, the ancient, the dazzlingly polished, the uniquely colored, and all the buying and selling--is the ultimate celebration of bright and shiny objects.


Of course, a bright and shiny object can be anything that catches your eye, holds your attention, and comes to represent something else. The "something else" could be simply beauty (is that why magpies hoard tinsel and aluminum foil in their nests?), or prestige ("I want people to see me wearing this expensive diamond"), or commitment to a practice or community or relationship ("I wear this shawl because I'm of this religion"/"This crystal will clear my psychic space"/"With this ring I thee wed").

Acquiring the bright shiny object is a dopamine hit--excitement of taking possession of the item, significance of time and place and intention. The more symbolic the object, the more of a "hit" you get when acquiring it. Symbolic could just mean "more expensive," but it could be a gift that cost no money. Some of my very favorite "gems" I picked up hiking beaches and hills.

So, how do we keep our bright shiny objects shiny?

I'm susceptible to symbolic bright shiny objects. And I know that "bright and shiny" can fade; a dopamine "hit" is a brief pulse of excitement that fades--and then you move on and need another toy.

My Gem Show bright shiny objects:lithiumetal-200

The two larger are lithium crystals; the smaller one on the left is green apatite, with lots of other color inclusions, and the smaller one on the right is a Tibetan diamond.

None of these is very expensive; all of them are symbolic for me, as are the two beautiful sarongs I found (not gems despite being at the Gem Show, but definitely in the "bright shiny object" category).sarongs-200




The sarongs and the small crystals can be worn. The crystals are in good company on my altar.


 WIll I continue to experience their bright-shininess when the novelty has worn off, when the excitement of choosing and acquiring is less fresh? Again, the more significant they are to me, the oftener I remind myself of their significance, the more I'll refresh their shininess.

And, since we create our own realities, the more I refresh the shininess, the more active they'll be in their significance.

It's no secret that I have an important relationship with lithium. You can see my poem "Lithium"  online in the current issue of the New England Review. (Please take a moment and go look!) 

Apatite is also known as "the weight loss stone." Another instance of folk etymology and sound resonance in language--apatite sounds like "appetite," right? Well, but actually the word apatite is nothing to do with appetite and is to do with deceiving. Something to ponder.

Tibetan diamond is a quartz. The symbolism is mostly specific to this particular piece. I'd been looking for a clear quartz to wear, the colorless rock that contains all the colors, as I wish to experience myself.

But if I don't keep meditating on my higher crown chakra, the colorless essence that contains and refracts all colors, the rock won't help me embody that.

And if I don't use the apatite in some sort of ritual, whether to deceive my appetite or to come to some peace in that area, it'll just be a tiny rock on my altar, iridescent with inclusions and colors (which is why it's named deceiver--you think it's one color and then it's another).

And if I don't work with those lithium crystals--if I don't first figure out what that looks like--I'll never know if they can help me not to need to ingest lithium carbonate every day.

To keep it shiny, (1) We create our own reality. "Recharging your crystals" isn't just woo-woo. Crystals carry electromagnetic energy and other energies, and you can intentionally affect these, just like when you created (charged) a magnet in middle school. But as well as recharging the crystal, you're reaffirming its symbolic shininess--why it's shiny to you. You can renew the dopamine hit with the same object!

And (2) keeping shiny objects shiny is just like embracing the placebo effect. Placebo is stunningly effective, and once again, it's about creating our own reality. If I believe something will help me, it increases the chance that it will help me (and conversely). In some cases, it's as effective as a corresponding medication. 

It's worth noting that this is often a three-way effectiveness: the patient's belief that the medication can help is one part, the actual substance (even if it's just water) is another, and the third is the patient's belief that she's being cared for by the medical professional. Injected placebos are more effective than pills (more hands-on), and placebo surgery under anesthesia is more effective still (something they discovered by accident).

I'm not saying there's no "objective" reality. I thought ashwagandha would help me, and it makes me climb the walls (and I was able to research and find out why (it's to do with GABA pathways)). Conversely, I didn't want to take lithium carbonate and resisted doing so for a long time, but when I started taking it a few years ago, almost immediately I experienced positive changes that weren't even in my experience of the world up to that point, so I couldn't have "created" them in placebo fashion.

But I know that an object's "shininess" for me lies largely in what it symbolizes for me. And I choose to create a universe in which I choose objects that have objective magic within them. And perhaps this universe itself is like the doctor who's part of making placebo effective.

And recharge! Renew the vows! Remember why you love the bright shiny object/the ideal it represents. Let the bright shiny objects represent love of yourself. You have these ideals, these symbolic significances, because you are a lovable person with laudable goals and ideals. Happy Valentine's Day! ("Valentine" as in "valid," as in "strong" and "worthy," as you and your loved ones are.)

About the Author

Ela Harrison

Ela is a wordsmith and herb lover who has lived in many places and currently resides in Tucson, AZ.

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