When we collect, we invest
Had a conversation with a colleague the other day on collecting.
More specifically, how it may turn into hoarding and eventually lose its purpose, taking up space unnecessary without giving us anything in return.
Didn’t realize it then, but it’s perhaps pretty apt that we’re working in an art gallery putting up a collectors’ exhibition now.
Why do we collect then?
We were talking about ticket stubs, brochures, maps, postcards, but it can be all sorts of things; letters, packaging, calendars, papers…
These items may have once helped us in one way or another, allowing us to learn about new information, navigate through foreign roads, and the likes.
But many times they are not meant to be kept forever.
Why do we keep them in our possession then, even long after they have served their purpose duly?
A hobby is defined as an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure.
The hobby of collecting can include seeking, locating, acquiring, organizing, cataloging, displaying, storing, and maintaining the items that are of interest to the collector.
I’m sure many of us keep many of such items as souvenirs, mementos, whatever we term them as.
Some of us may have a systematic manner of storing them, some of us simply stash them into a box which opens up only when something needs to go in.
No matter how we do it, each item signifies a piece of memory that we’ve chose to retain; a token of remembrance that may help us recall the past that’s long gone from the front of our minds.
In doing so, we invest a little of ourselves in each piece of relic we chose to cling on to.
Even if we may never look at them again, even if we only think about them sometimes.
These are pieces of our soul, each from a slightly different moment deposited together. Each forms a part of you, each informs a segment of your memory.
Yet together what do they become?
You are still you without them.
Your memories are still your memories.
Why do we then choose to attach part of ourselves in these items?
What does that attachment do for us?
Perhaps it is the materiality of these items that keep us sane, for we fear the intangibles may one day disappear entirely, since we could never really see them clearly in the first place.
We’re attaching part of ourselves to extend the physical presences of our memories; as long as these items remain present, so do our memories.
Forming attachments isn’t easy; breaking them even harder.
The more attachments you form, the harder it hurts when you have to break them.
There is a limit to the amount of physical objects we can keep; upon that, we have to make a decision.
Having gone through that, you may want to make a decision at a much earlier point.
One comes earlier, one comes later.
One is probable, one is definite.
One is gradual, one is immediate.
The risk of fading memories, or the pain of stripping attachments; which would you rather face?
“Letters are just pieces of paper,” I said. “Burn them, and what stays in your heart will stay; keep them, and what vanishes will vanish.”
— Norwegian Wood, Haruki Murakami