Friday, January 6, 2012

What's to Like?

I was thinking the other day about a question I don't know the answer to. Why do we like the things we do? Where do our tastes in anything come from? What got me to thinking about this was my anticipation of the arrival of some stamps I ordered from a dealer up around Chicago. I collected stamps as a teenager. When I was in the Air Force in my mid-20s, I gave my entire collection, lock, stock, barrel, and stamp hinges, to a service friend. (Whatever possessed me to do this, I'll never know. It was an accumulation of about ten years worth of collecting, both U.S. and foreign, in a big fat album. This avid collector, a guy named Lanny Sockwell, must have thought he had died and gone to heaven.) I have kicked myself any number of times for this idiotic largesse since I resumed collecting stamps just a few years later.
So I collect stamps--just U.S.--and I have a bunch of books and music CDs, too.* It would be fair to say I'm a collector of these also. What makes some people like to collect things, while others have no interest at all in such things? I would suppose some people collect because they aim at having the collection worth something. But no true collector collects so he can sell his stuff. No, it's something much more intangible. Somehow, when I finish out a series, say all the commemorative US stamps issued in 1992 or 1940, there's a sense of accomplishment that sets in, a feeling that something significant has occurred. The complete set of books by an author or poet, same thing, even if you have not read the book. That's not necessary at all. Or every CD by a band or artist.

It's a great feeling. Nobody but another collector can understand this. I don't understand it myself.

*I've also got miscellaneous collections of things that aren't "active" collections, but that I'd never get rid of. Baseball cards, post cards, a few Mardi Gras doubloons.
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