March 04, 2009
One time or another, we've all collected things. From the raised trunk elephant, to flying pigs, to railroad memorabilia, there’s a little bit of a collector in all of us. We surround ourselves with material goods fashioned into representations of things that make us happy on some level. Then, with pride and appreciation, we display our treasures for all the world to see. Sharing our happiest moments and trinkets which bring us joy with others dear to us, demonstrates the power we hold to set aside others’ consideration of our choices, and touch a part of ourselves that identifies and expresses our true subjective happiness.
I enjoy shopping Estate Sales. Sure, I find incredible bargains at houses full of furniture and drawers of belongings representing a life lived in common with most of us. Curiously, I enjoy discovering a bit about the person who passed on by noticing the things he or she collected. At almost every sale as of late, I discovered a large collection of matchbooks and match boxes, carefully accumulated by the former owner and now the dealer, into a huge brandy snifter, or extra large plastic zip storage bag. What struck me most was not the large collection of matches from earlier times and exotic travels, but rather the social statement of very different people acquiring the same types of items.
Stuff. Things to dust. We possess silly things we never intended to accumulate or keep. Sometimes people give us a goofy item and we care so much for the endearing sentiment of the gift, we overlook its tackiness. I hesitate discarding a handmade stuffed toy, ornament or painting, more than I will passing along crystal candlesticks. What we collect represents more than form and shape; we collect memories and emotions and they express who we know ourselves to be.
We also collect attitudes, habits and mistakes! How often in life, do we choose the same mistake over and over again, even though it may look just a little bit different than the last error in judgment? Our habits, too, repeat a collected pattern of behavior ad nauseum while providing a comfort level and some measure of joy in the familiarity and expanse of their effect. Attitudes, collected over the years, inherited from family members or picked up vicariously from co-workers, teachers or other influential people in our lives, issue forth a culmination of a lifelong search for opinion and self-identification.
Like the matchboxes, the choices we make come from deliberation and decision making. From the simple and benign collection of free matches, to the intricate life-decisions that affect us on our walk on the planet, we become the collection of the choices we make.
Our bodies make thousands of involuntary choices each moment, awake or asleep. From our hearts beating, to our lungs drawing and exhaling breath, we trust our body to provide the necessary functions to sustain life. In a similar manner, we trust our judgment and choices to nurture our self-esteem, our self-actualization and place in the world. We collect a series of responses, which allow us to fit in or conversely, appear to differentiate us from the rest of our culture. No matter how contemplative their origination, the choices we make on either conscious or sub-conscious levels, always spring forth from self-preservation or nutrition of the spirit.
Some folks collect china cups, items in a certain color, or even cats. When we look at amassing "too much of a good thing," it raises the notion that we may believe our efforts will be admired or appreciated by others. We collect as much for others as for ourselves. We collect things to gain respect for diligence in the search for all things Coca Cola, or how many things bear the likeness of a frog. Some folks collect silver plated teaspoons bearing the state seals of their travels and display them in cases lined with velvet prongs, almost shouting, "well- traveled" to our guests.
Very rarely collections reflect true monetary value or investment. Yes, avid coin and stamp collectors and fine art aficionados expend extensive research and preservation and enjoy some handsome rewards. Most of us dabble in meaningless or even free items. For instance, I collect little rocks. I like to find a lovely specimen of native stone or rock and bring it home. Nature's handiwork, for me, symbolizes God's souvenir and a clear connection to where I've been. To others, my small sampling of geology is a bunch of baggies with little rocks in them, marked with indelible ink as to location and date visited.
As I mature, I stop to notice when I attempt to accumulate the same attitudes, bad habits, repetitive choices or even more rocks. What will I do with all this stuff? I wonder if possessing these animate and inanimate objects enhances my life or distracts me from living it fully. I examine whether or not the same boring food or yet another parrot adorned item makes a difference. Then, I see it. Hidden in the all the tables lined up in the empty homes, devoid of life, yet filled with belongings, the culmination of who we are through the expression of what we collect. We nourish and love ourselves by adorning our surroundings with things we enjoy. In paying heed to what we find important enough to collect, we honor our self-love. The evidence of a unique spirit, simple or complex, shines forth from the sum collection of what we own and who we are.
Our spirit, our connection with our inner self, remains constant and stalwart against time and deterioration. But, someday, someone will wrap up our collection of matches, and a lucky person will buy it for a buck!
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