Philipp Blom was on The Arts Today tonight, musings about his book, To Have and To Hold: An Intimate History of Collectors and Collecting.
He spoke of a gentleman he met over drinks, in some European place. The fellow was articulate, imbibed, and it turned out, no longer possessing of a library.
But he was pleased.
He had turned 62, not so long ago, and it occurred to him that by local statistics, he would be dead in 10 years. Rather than leaving the mess for his survivors to sort out (or gawk at), he decided to begin the process of devesting himself of “stuff”. Uncollecting his passions. He disposed of the library, and invested in plastic cups.
Plastic cups, incidently, is the antithesis of collecting, to Mr. Blom’s mind. No kitsch for this fellow.
His companion explained that collecting was a pathology, an illness and a symptom (all at once, oh my!). We collect, manicly (oh yes) to fill an emotional void which can never be satisfied by objects.
But then he takes it further – the realization that the void will not be filled by objects leads him to suggest that that we’re going about this all wrong; that we should let go of the objects and look for fulfillment elsewhere.
This judgement troubles me.
On many fronts.
First, the idea that because something is without resolution, it has no worth. I’m afraid I’ll have to side with Quixote on this one – impossible dreams and never-ending quests, however grand or trivial, can be the stuff which keeps life interesting, worth doing, dare I even say meaningful? To give up because something is hopeless is the saddest of defeats, and heavens save me from it.
The joy in unattainable goals lies in the trying to get there. The puzzles we solve, the detours we make, the people and places along the way. If life is discovery, quest is the context which shapes it.
I collect stories, and in doing so have had the privilege to meet people who have enriched my life beyond the stories they’ve shared.
And back to my original thought, to let go of longing strikes me as such a dull way to spend one’s days. Satisfaction is contentment is stagnation is death. Eternal blah-ness will come soon enough, why resign ourselves to it before our time?
Second, that collecting itself serves only to distract us from what we really need, as opposed to something which can be enriching in its own right.
See above about the treasures of any journey.
And more, collecting is a reflexive endeavour. It draws our awareness outwards, away from ourselves, which is a necessary first step in self-discovery. It ensures a steady stream of new material, new nuance, which becomes a part of our toolkit in confronting the world and ourselves.
I can’t believe I used that word.
And no, I don’t really know what I’m talking anymore. I lost it with “toolkit”.
But I do know that in collecting, I become more than just this person who possesses these things.
However, my discourse on the social, spiritual, philosophical and romantic impact of collecting smutty books on my life will have to wait for another night =)~
What’s that NaNo? 600 more words tonight?