The Collecting Instinct


Last week my six-year-old came home from school loaded up with books from the school book fair but nonetheless wanting to Amazon another, How to Read People’s Minds.  Now, among other considerations, I try to evaluate my kids’ “needs” (they always classify their wants as such) through the prism of educational merit.  From that perspective, this request was an easy one to accept.   Much of one’s success in life is supposed to be related to EQ (emotional intelligence), of which understanding other people plays a large part.  (Dubya is supposed to have had it in spades, though, personally, I’d rather have a beer with Barack any day of the week.  And, anyway, if I were imbibing with Dubya, I’d request…

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Blind Faith

Last week I heard the funniest story that I just have to blog. (Names have been omitted to protect the guilty.) A reputable dealer in Chicago told me that he sold a painting to a blind man. The blind man is a collector who had bought art from him for many years. He would typically ask the dealer to find him one sort of work of art or another, and the dealer always obliged. Later in life he lost his vision. No matter, one day he approached the dealer and asked for a Dufy painting. The dealer found a nice small one and presented it to the blind man. The blind man asks, “Tell me, is it nice?” The dealer…

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Some of us are collectors and others are not. I suppose that to some extent we may be born that way. But I also believe that there are substantive differences between the presumed collecting instinct and the state of being a “pack rat.” Are these both instincts, or are they learned behaviors? Are they both to be avoided, or only when they get out of hand? And, what constitutes being out of hand? I’ve heard about a person who was crushed to death by the stuff he hoarded in his apartment, and about others who have had serious crises by being literally unable to move in their domiciles due to all their stuff. The fear of getting rid of stuff…

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