PARADOXICAL

The faith chronicles

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

 

The collector

(Draft; old personal essay on stuff)

I was an avid collector of inconsequential things in my young life. If that’s any indication of one’s zest for life, then you could say I loved life with a passion; I was in lust with life, enough to collect life in neat, little packages. I was a complete collector.

I’ve been what they call a philatelist. From the various stamps I loved to collect and keep, I learned that Magyar refers to Hungarians, Helvetia means Switzerland, there’s a country in the world called Mauritius, and the people of Poland paid in zlotys.

Naturally, this led me into becoming a numismatist, a collector of coins and paper money. My first foreign acquisition was a Malaysian ringgit, brought by my father who was an OCW. I was fond of Japanese coins which had holes in the middle like metal doughnuts, not to mention quirky characters I couldn’t possibly decipher, which added to their charm.

Before long, I would also be a phillumenist. That’s what they call fools who collect postcards. I could still recall how I ended up acquiring postcards from Brazil, Japan, and other places. Each find had a unique story behind it.

I never got to join any collectors’ clubs, though. There never was a need. Most friends and acquaintances had relatives from from-off places in the planet so collecting was pretty easy. My only investment were the sweet, gentle words of persuasion and a singular covetousness for my neighbor’s goods.

Before long, I was also into collecting souvenirs and assorted “ephemera” - product labels, bus tickets (only the nice ones made of sturdy material, though), pencils and pens, rocks and stones, plant leaves (collected for their interesting design) that I pressed between book pages, seashells, and writing paper. I haven’t even included the toys I had on this list. When I went as far as collecting live spiders, well, my mother called it foul and I had an immediate cease and desist order before I turned the house into a giant cobweb or spider zoo.

I think she thought me odd, and why I was crazy enough to collect trash was something beyond her grasp. I couldn’t understand myself either. Whatever impelled me to collect stuff was something I never questioned. I just collected and collected, stashed and stashed away some nice stuff. All I knew was that I was only following a natural impulse.

But eventually I became suspicious of myself. Where did it come from? Why do I have this deep desire to acquire? Did it come from something more than was apparent?

It took me years before I had to cross out materialism from my list of suspicions. While there’s some degree of unhealthy emotional attachment to the things I collected, it was certainly not the reason. The reason I collected was simply to have fun, to celebrate life in its diverse splendor, to place myself in a position where I get to open myself to a lot of surprise.

I noticed that one of the fruits of my having sort of matured in life is this sudden waning of my passions for the things I used to collect with such enthusiasm. I guess it's age that's the culprit, finally unleashing me from what I now regarded to be a juvenile habit, so that I would wake up one day wondering whether to burn or give everything away.

I, in fact, sold my invaluable stamp collection, for one – a whole album of it, for a song, just to see if I’d cry over it. I didn’t. Ironically, during those times, I found myself face to face again with a lot of trivialities that virtually presented a new chance for me to stash things away, in a new album of sorts, things that had to do with my life as an employee in the everyday world of work, which was a whole new world to me. I had to snub them all now, all the things I used to collect in my youth. The passion seemed gone. Besides, the fun part of collecting was lost – that of combing the remotest corners for that treasure trove of the rarest finds.

Nice to have as they were, those things eventually presented themselves to me with much ease, because now, I have the money, unlike before. The things I used to collect can now be now easily purchased in some second-hand store at the mall. The things the used to get me excited simply lost their appeal, ceasing to be the treasures or finds that they used to be.

Does this mean I had lost my zeal for life? I guess not. I think it just brought my habit of collecting to a whole new level.


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