I have a habit of fetishizing paper goods and writing utensils, hoarding books, and keeping a messy office. I’m given to obsession, and guitars have been a big part of that. I used to spend hours pouring over magazines and catalogues, wandering through guitar stores, and taking trips to other towns that had different guitar stores.
Guitars have talismanic aesthetics– the iconography of rock n’ roll, the “cover of Rolling Stone,” is almost catholic in its beauty. They are tools, art objects, and symbols of sexual power.
For the majority of my life, for the last 17 or so years, I’ve pursued guitar. I’ve owned several different guitars over the years. I’ve made a practice of pairing down the quantity of things I hold onto, and I’ve made a ritual of gifting the occasional guitar to a friend.
The act of giving things away has become a big part of my consumption cycle. When my wife and I moved from Tucker to Poncey-Highlands, we took 3 or 4 carloads of things and donated them. We did the same thing when we moved out of that apartment– I try to give away as much as I collect. I’ve given away or donated 6 guitars. Now, I own 2 guitars and a banjo. Two were gifts to me, and one I purchased using layaway. I really appreciated the item I had to buy using layaway– this happened during a financially weak period of my life; it took me three months to save the $350 to buy it. The guitar is a Seagull acoustic, made in Canada. There’s nothing really special about the item, but I would never sell it.
I agree with Alex’s post that categorizes objects as culturally positive, enhancing memory and providing a grounding effect to the individual. Much of my writing this semester has explored the alienation of the self that comes through possession. My personal relationship with this object reminds me of a time in my own life when I made sacrifices to obtain something that I felt was a worthwhile endeavor– much of the day-to-day consumption in my life has little connection to that very mindful act of buying a guitar. Do I care if I spend too much money on coffee? These little daily acts of consumption serve a foil contrasting against the awareness of mindful collecting.
Lately, I read articles on minimalism. I don’t want my objects to own me. I want my extended self to find utility and not alienation. My patterns of consuming are evolving. This semester has been a challenge point in my personal growth, and I’ve begun questioning consumption on a greater scale. There are certainly risks and rewards to consumption. Having the necessary tools and goods for survival in a modern world is an essential of life. Having every wanton desire fulfilled is not essential. In fact, having every desire fulfilled is potentially dangerous.
A study of lottery winners observed that winning the lottery and magically being financially unencumbered didn’t make people any happier. Cultivating contentment yields better results than chasing gratification– this is my motto towards consumption today.