Sunday, June 12, 2016

Collecting vs. Saving: The Comfort of Things . . .

Everyone has an opinion. Many, particularly those in the field of analyzing human behavior, who, with my pedestrian knowledge on the study of the brain, have come to the conclusion that they are even still confused about the whys and wherefores as to why people collect, even after all their exploration and evaluations are through. Therefore, to simply state it, people collect and people save. It’s only human nature that we do. So let’s start out with an uncomplicated theory: things give us comfort.  

Accumulation of things presents a tangible expression of a person or household. From the decorations hanging on the walls, to whose photographs are on display, and what collections are arrayed on mantelpieces. Material objects also help deal with loss and change and provide comfort. Collecting is also a great hobby. One can also learn about people through the medium of their things. There is a complex role played by objects in our lives, and indeed in our relationships with others. Becoming attuned to the presence of material forms can sometimes speak more easily and eloquently to the nature of relationships than can people themselves.
Does this make any sense to you? Kind of, you may think. Say, for example, you invite a new friend to your home and conversations are a bit awkward at first. Then you point out your collections of antique paper weights, each having a story to tell. Everyone had some kind of paper weight in their life and this subject may induce a lively conversation that will create a comfort zone. People like to tell stories and people like to hear them as long as you involved them by asking questions about their collections.   

So what do you collect? And why do you collect?  When people think of collecting, they may imagine expensive works of art or historical artifacts that are later sold to a museum or listed on eBay.  The truth is, for many people who amass collections, the value of their collections are not monetary but emotional —and often, not for sale. Collections allow people to relive their childhoods, to connect themselves to a period in history or to a time they feel strongly about. Their collections may help keep the past present, creating a comfortable atmosphere in which to live. However, do you feel overwhelm with stuff, fear that you are more connected to your material possessions more so then your relationships with people? That the more materialistic you become the more superficial you are, and that your relationships with people suffer as a result? Hogwash! The opposite is true; that possessions often remain profound and usually the closer our relationships are with objects, the closer are relationships with people.”
Collectors are really happy people.  Collecting is still mostly associated with positive emotions. There is the happiness from adding a new find to the collection, the excitement of the hunt, the social camaraderie when sharing their collection with other collectors. It is the comfort of things. Nevertheless, saving is all together another aspect. Saving has its own characteristic and purpose, which will be explained in tomorrow’s post.

The title of this blog, “The Comfort of Things,” is from a book written by Daniel Miller; Cambridge: Polity, 2008

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