Apart from ambitious girls who have just screwed up a match, crying and volleyball don’t usually go together. But anyone who’s watched the film Cast Away has experienced this spectacle for himself.
The plot: castaway Chuck Noland (aka Tom Hanks) is fighting for survival after a plane crash. In the wilderness, the only thing he can talk to – or hold monologues in front of – is a Wilson brand volleyball.
Even for the audience, Wilson becomes an increasingly humanised object. And when Chuck tries to flee the island on a raft, and the ball loosens itself from his tender straps and drifts away, the outcry is huge: WILSON! Never was a ball more likeable. Wilson is in fact so popular that when you shop online for a classic volleyball of this brand, you first have to work your way through an astonishingly wide range of castaway Wilsons.
There is also a moon crater called Wilson, named after the Scottish astronomer Alexander Wilson, the Scottish physicist Charles Thomson Rees Wilson and the American astronomer Ralph Elmer Wilson. It seems as though humans stranded in foreign places like to look for stability and company in objects, or simply things called Wilson. Chuck Noland uses his bloodstained volleyball, whereas another famous shipwrecked person objectifies a person and names him after a random day of the week. But not only isolated islands and uninhabited planets present a challenge; daily life in the anthill of the big city requires strategies too, even if they lie more in the direction of boundary-marking: A Starbucks cup, clung to in the rush hour. Staying resolutely behind Nordic Walking sticks alongside the marathon candidates in an empty park. The concentrated analysis of screens on the train.
Sometimes objects safeguard us against loneliness, and sometimes they’re good for creating a protective barrier between us and the hostile, anonymous mass. But no matter where and how we are on the move, we like holding onto things and things can hold onto us.