Collecting: wisdom or madness?

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Reply Wed 10 Dec, 2008 02:42 pm
In general almost everybody thinks about collectors as being the opposite of philosophers, collectors being petty materialists while philosophers only need the wide blue sky and a wooden cask to live in (the aroma of some noble drink being a fine plus). In my profile in ... I wrote the following:

"Catcha... what? What's in a name? He who is called a fool by another name could be called a dreamer, a seeker of sense, a lover of beauty and a reader of many things. What is the value of collecting? A collector seeks more than just objects, he gathers dreams and symbols, materialized archetypes, mirrors of both ourselves and this world. These objects are alive, they have a soul and an aura, they are loaded with associations and sparkling with meaning. They are signposts in a vast and incomprehensible universe, stories to be read over and over again, recombined like the letters of the Hebrew Bible or the cards of the Tarot. Consciously experiencing these objects is like meditating, it is rediscovering our universe and remembering our destiny. Exploring them is refreshing our heart and renewing our perception, drenching ourselves with a feeling of adventure, with a promise of fulfillment. See Creation in a dusty meteorite and Eternity in a broken clock. Collectors are children for life, singing and dancing in their very own Garden of Eden..."

Now I confess that I was at least a little drunk when I wrote this, but the question remains: can collecting have a philosophical dimension somehow? Can one collect "ideas", "archetypes", "dreams", "stories" by collecting (just) objects? Can objects be interesting companions, and more than something to "let go", to reject full of contempt? Dusting the stuff is killing me, so this question is vital. Thanks for any comment.
 
avatar6v7
 
Reply Wed 10 Dec, 2008 04:02 pm
@Catchabula,
Catchabula wrote:
In general almost everybody thinks about collectors as being the opposite of philosophers, collectors being petty materialists while philosophers only need the wide blue sky and a wooden cask to live in (the aroma of some noble drink being a fine plus).

If only all the petty materialist 'philosophers' realised this.
 
Catchabula
 
Reply Wed 10 Dec, 2008 04:11 pm
@avatar6v7,
Scusi Signor, me bad ingles. Meant to say "...being considered as petty..." and "...while philosophers are supposed only to need...". I have to be more careful in phrasing. A small misunderstanding may once be the end of the world.
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Wed 10 Dec, 2008 07:56 pm
@Catchabula,
Depends on what you collect and for what purpose. Those little glass dolphins have to go.

I collect drums and cymbals, vintage and new. I also play drums, and so I use my collection. My collection isn't something I really show off; bring a drummer to my home and I'll happily show my collection, but it's not the way some people collect art so they can brag.
 
Catchabula
 
Reply Thu 11 Dec, 2008 05:14 am
@Didymos Thomas,
I thought I had implied that my collection was heterogenous. There are naturalia here, scientific instruments, art, religious objects, nautical stuff... I won't tell much more about it, perhaps collections must make us humble, not proud (oh man, you ought to see my fossils Smile )
 
Icon
 
Reply Thu 11 Dec, 2008 09:36 am
@Catchabula,
Something occurred to me the other day. I have only collected one thing in my entire life and it is the one thing that I am most afraid of. That's right, the only thing that I have ever bothered to collect is my biggest fear.

Blades. Swords, spears, axes, knives, halbreds, tonfa. Everything with a blade on it from all parts of history and region. At one point, my collection was in excess of 500 individual pieces. I have sense sold most of it off. I kept the few that I loved most dearly and frightened me the most. Not only did I collect them but I became proficient with every style, even to the point of competition. I never realized it but being cut or stabbed is most worst fear. Has happened to me twice in my life and was terrifying. But still, I had this strong desire to collect and play with the blades.

I wonder why this is?

To address your question, I suppose that collecting things can assist in philosophy. While I was collecting these trinkets, I was forcing myself, subconsciously, to face my biggest fear. This has helped me handle my fears which derive from philosophies which can come to frightening conclusions.
 
manored
 
Reply Thu 11 Dec, 2008 09:41 am
@Catchabula,
In my opinion whatever you do in your free-time to keep yourself from having a mental-breakdown is fine, as long as it is not more damaging than a mental breakdown Smile

As for philosophic value, I think anything can have a philosophic value... the somewhat clouded sky is soo beautifull Smile ants can be interesting too, tough sometimes they act kinda stupid. Last time I observed ants they were just walking in circles around the area of the nest, and poking then and throwing dirt on then just made then walk faster.
 
Catchabula
 
Reply Thu 11 Dec, 2008 11:30 am
@manored,
Thanks Monared, so nice to enable me to bring up the following word here:

[CENTER]MICROCOSMOS [/CENTER]

(This should be written in large elegant greek letters. For those who despise movies: it's also the title of a wonderful documentary about the life of insects)

My (small) point being that a (heterogenous) collection can be a "model", a simplified and essentially incomplete representation of the universe. Just like books are, and just like our own personal knowledge. When I obtain a "good piece" I always feel like I'm filling some hole that I didn't know was there before. Once the hole is filled it feels like it was absolutely necessary to fill it (one example to suggest this more clearly: my silver calix). Each of the items in my collection represents a huge mindmap, and it's fascinating to see how all these mindmaps touch each other at the edge. For me it doesn't feel artificial to go from a ship's model to a shell to a fossil to... (never ending, but passing through all the others). So my collection is like knowledge itself: never complete and yet always complete, each idea and each object expressing partially some totality, all of them being an echo of the Infinite. Who can feel the sweet pain of Incompleteness better than the collector? Could be bull, but I'm not convinced yet.

(Ding dong! Icon is expected by the surgeon in room 101... ;-) )
 
manored
 
Reply Thu 11 Dec, 2008 12:11 pm
@Catchabula,
Thats an interesting manner of seeing the world and the theme of collections. I agree that aparently randow set of itens can be a world of their own depending of whose eyes look at then.

Icon I think the reason you collect your biggest fear is the same reason as to why the two superpotencies in the cold war keept making nukes even thought their biggest fear was a nuclear war Smile
 
Khethil
 
Reply Thu 11 Dec, 2008 06:22 pm
@manored,
Neither.

Collecting, inherently, is neither wise nor mad. Depending on how it's done; however, could constitute obsessiveness, preoccupation, self-destructiveness, etc. But the short answer to the topic (imho) is "Neither".

Also, at the risk of being abrasive here, this statement:

Catchabula wrote:
In general almost everybody thinks about collectors as being the opposite of philosophers, collectors being petty materialists while philosophers only need the wide blue sky and a wooden cask to live in...


... I believe is false. If I may, your perception that folks "generally" are this way may be due to the environment in which you're experiencing.

Catchabula wrote:
... Now I confess that I was at least a little drunk when I wrote this, but the question remains: can collecting be philosophical somehow?


Yea, I've done that too at times Surprised

But I'd say "No".. only insomuch as the collecting-hobby is concerned. Now, such a hobby could inspire one towards things philosophical (which it seems to have done with you). But I wouldn't really classify the act of collecting to be just so.

But no... don't let anyone get you down. I don't think there's anything intrinsically-materialistic about collecting only because: from my experience, collectors are more contemplative and generally don't much appreciate the objects so much as they do the meaning behind such objects.

Hope this perspective helps.

Thanks
 
Poseidon
 
Reply Sun 14 Dec, 2008 06:19 pm
@Catchabula,
Thats a great piece of phenomenology Icon.
And its about as solid a piece of evidence one can find for how the subconscious mind operates.

I have a fear of collecting things, I suppose that would mean that I intrinsically desire to conquer the world.
(Warning: keep me away from politics)
 
manored
 
Reply Sun 14 Dec, 2008 06:23 pm
@Poseidon,
Go ahead. One guy on the throne means no wars and politics Smile
 
Catchabula
 
Reply Mon 15 Dec, 2008 07:53 am
@manored,
Would it be somewhere implied that the heterogenous collector is afraid of about Everything, running away from the world, hiding in his little doll-house, while the real problems are tackled by those fearless vampire killers called philosophers ;-) ? Two aphoristic farts here:

-One is either a philosopher or a man trying to understand the world.

-Philosophers fear the obvious. If it's the truth they're out of business.

Confronting your fears by collecting the objects that scare you? May not be applicable to matchbox cars, but the motive for collecting blades may be just good old agression, denying itself as usual. My american neighbour has a huge collection of handguns, he goes to the shooting-range every Saturday, and he teaches his eight year old son how to handle a Mauser (school is for sissies). All this because he fears fire-arms? Don't tell him that if you want to live :-))

And fleeing from the world by hiding between your objects? It may be self-deception, but I think that due to the continuous presence of these objects I know more and I have experienced more than many others. I go on trips to collect fossils, I go to flea markets, to art auctions.. I know what a Cymbiola Imperialis is and I even know how it smells (it does not smell). My objects are Knowledge Incorporated, for me they're just some kind of parallel library. Perhaps some philosophers may exactly know how polished marble feels according to its environment, deducing every property of it from its Pure Idea. But I can touch it every day, and I think that's quite a priviledge (the statue being of course a nude ;-) ).

Now in their search for the improbable philosophers often forget there is a science of about everything, even about the psychology of collecting. There seem to be many motives, some more personal and some more general, some (morally) good and some dubious or bad. Ranging from pure scientific curiosity to trying to impress people, from warm love for the objects to seeing them merely as an investment. And did we say moral? Can objects -sometime bought at high prices- not inspire their owner to care, to caution, to a sense of responsibility? But we were talking philosophy here. These objects are at their best when they bring you to quiet contemplation, when you can taste their significance your whole life long, measuring your evolution with the constancy of their richness. When W.R. Hearst was dying he often called for his Veronese. When I die I'd rather do that between my things, than looking at a bleak hospital wall. But of course nothing beats a living hand...
 
Icon
 
Reply Mon 15 Dec, 2008 09:10 am
@Catchabula,
Catchabula wrote:
Would it be somewhere implied that the heterogenous collector is afraid of about Everything, running away from the world, hiding in his little doll-house, while the real problems are tackled by those fearless vampire killers called philosophers ;-) ? Two aphoristic farts here:

-One is either a philosopher or a man trying to understand the world.

-Philosophers fear the obvious. If it's the truth they're out of business.

Confronting your fears by collecting the objects that scare you? May not be applicable to matchbox cars, but the motive for collecting blades may be just good old agression, denying itself as usual. My american neighbour has a huge collection of handguns, he goes to the shooting-range every Saturday, and he teaches his eight year old son how to handle a Mauser (school is for sissies). All this because he fears fire-arms? Don't tell him that if you want to live :-))

And fleeing from the world by hiding between your objects? It may be self-deception, but I think that due to the continuous presence of these objects I know more and I have experienced more than many others. I go on trips to collect fossils, I go to flea markets, to art auctions.. I know what a Cymbiola Imperialis is and I even know how it smells (it does not smell). My objects are Knowledge Incorporated, for me they're just some kind of parallel library. Perhaps some philosophers may exactly know how polished marble feels according to its environment, deducing every property of it from its Pure Idea. But I can touch it every day, and I think that's quite a priviledge (the statue being of course a nude ;-) ).

Now in their search for the improbable philosophers often forget there is a science of about everything, even about the psychology of collecting. There seem to be many motives, some more personal and some more general, some (morally) good and some dubious or bad. Ranging from pure scientific curiosity to trying to impress people, from warm love for the objects to seeing them merely as an investment. And did we say moral? Can objects -sometime bought at high prices- not inspire their owner to care, to caution, to a sense of responsibility? But we were talking philosophy here. These objects are at their best when they bring you to quiet contemplation, when you can taste their significance your whole life long, measuring your evolution with the constancy of their richness. When W.R. Hearst was dying he often called for his Veronese. When I die I'd rather do that between my things, than looking at a bleak hospital wall. But of course nothing beats a living hand...


My collection doesn't seem to have anything to do with violence. There is a peace found in the practice of, say, tai chi with a Wudang sword. Or even the rigid Gong Fu spear can provide a soothing calm. The power driven Wushu Sword develops a keen sense of your surrounding as it is not only long but heavy and the Dadao is rythmic. Practicing with an english broad sword or even a calymore can provide a sense of rigid precision.

My collection serves to sooth me. I collect handguns as well you might say. I own 7. I use those for competition shooting though. I don't think I could ever pull the trigger on a living target.

I am the type who does not care for the object itself but that which the object enables me to do. There is a type of peace which can't be found when fumbling with a light prectice sword. But when you have the true weight of a real blade, it becomes an extension of yourself and allows you to become one with it. You can release all accounts of the passing of time and the self and concentrate of the movement and energy flowing around you.
 
Catchabula
 
Reply Mon 15 Dec, 2008 09:44 am
@Icon,
http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2175/2271400720_6077b9f8d7.jpg?v=0
 
manored
 
Reply Mon 15 Dec, 2008 10:53 am
@Catchabula,
Dont fell offended, but your collection seens to have been carefully arranged to look like a pile of junk that formed itself naturally in someone's atic Smile
 
Catchabula
 
Reply Mon 15 Dec, 2008 12:30 pm
@manored,
You're a clever observer, Manored. The "significa" are obviously arranged in a conscious way (sometimes temporary). I feel it like amplyfying the "diction" of each separate object by placing it in context, in dialogue with other similar or at least related objects. Classification being one of the oldest ways to knowledge, and a librarian's obsession. Call me a fool but I have (partially overlapping) "corners" in my house: a science corner, a medical corner, a religious corner, a nautical corner... My books are separated from these but I often dreamt about integrating them with the objects, both being there to read and to read again. A more appropriate word than "corner" might be "World" here (sive "Mundus"; making it latin to add some more weight ;-) )): "Mundus Geographicus", "Mundus Religiosus"... of course I see these "Mundi" as "Imagines Mundi", a modern word being aspects or dimensions. This is of course closely connected with the symbolic or contemplative purpose of my collection, many collections (like Icon's) being of a more practical nature. My ultimate aim being of course a "Mousaion", a temple of the muses, a natural extension of the library, the garden... (there's even a small laboratory here). All oriented towards and justified by knowledge, which makes my story philosophically relevant. What do you think?
 
manored
 
Reply Mon 15 Dec, 2008 12:46 pm
@Catchabula,
I think you are trying to create a net of memories based on objects around yourself so you may not forget certain ideas you do not wish to forget, net strenghed by the organization you give the objects. Because both the objects and their organization can decay and the value given to memories change over time, you pay close attention to your collection, making sure everthing is as it is supposed to be and making small adjustments. I am correct?

Oh and I must comment that, under those circunstances, making a "naturally formed pile of junk world" is rather curious Smile
 
Catchabula
 
Reply Mon 15 Dec, 2008 01:18 pm
@manored,
Yes, somehow. But I feel it as a bit more complex, the "memories" or "ideas" that are represented by the objects or by their constellation not being fixed and personal, but rather being some "vague idea" that needs continuous articulation and exploration, forming a never-ending inspiration for myself or any attentive beholder, being essentially inexhaustible. We are talking about SYMBOLIC value here, something like the Tarot or the old Emblemata-books. Compare it with a work of art, full of significance, immediately felt as such, yet enabling diverse interpretations and yet keeping all these interpretations together somehow, like a pole in the ground determining the reach of a rope (or maybe an elastic cord ;-) ). These "worlds" I want to create are a bridge between subject and object, sharing with individual thinking their limitations, sharing with the outer-world their infinity. I hope I made myself clear, if not read it twice ;-))
 
manored
 
Reply Mon 15 Dec, 2008 01:54 pm
@Catchabula,
No you havent Smile Thought it sounded something like "I leave all this aparently useless stuff around my house bound togheder by this aparently useless order not because I am crazy, but to inspire thoughts and ideas in me and in other people who see those things"
 
 

 
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