Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The comfort of familiar things...

061010_ on my desk (279/365)

Took this picture earlier today... I was working from home and had various bits and pieces on my desk in the study (its our spare/computer/craft/library room)... as I worked away.

It got me thinking about why these objects were there. The pens were there for the proofreading I needed to do... but why did I have my Moleskine and my Olympus [mju:] on my desk? The Moleskine isn't my work notebook and the camera has absolutely no connection with my work. I guess I just like them near.

I remember hearing a phrase during my holding... I think I read it in Monocle... about the comfort of familiar things. I think this was about the comfort of the familiar.

I like stuff. I don't pretend otherwise.

I like the way things look and feel to touch... how they work and perform - their form and their function. In this sense, I am a materialist.

I actually feel uncomfortable talking about stuff... its as if consumerism has tainted the honest appreciation of things. Thing is... I don't think this is the same as consumerism, however.

Consumerism is all about the next thing... its rampant neophilia... the desperate need to fill our lives with stuff and never feeling/being fulfilled.

Experiencing the comfort of familiar things is different... its not about the next thing but the right thing... right here, right now. Its the feeling of throwing on your favourite tee-shirt or listening to your favourite song on your music player or phone of choice. Its about appreciating what you have and how it enrichens our lives... making the most of what we have.

Do you remember the stories connected to the stuff you have? I look at the Moleskine I use as my journal and remember the shop I bought it in in Jesolo near Venice... or the Olympus [mju:] that I bought for a couple of pounds on eBay after seeing one featured on Tokyo Camera Style. I think of how I came about the MacBook Pro that I am typing this post on... or the adventures I have had with her (she travels well). I consider the places and spaces I've been with my Nikon d60 and remember the weekend that encouraged us to get it... with a cheeky wee smile on my face, may I add.

I do believe the world doesn't need more stuff to throw away... but I do think the world needs more stuff that folks can't throw away. Stuff of such high build quality... or meaning that we want to retain. Stuff that meets our specific needs.

I collect cameras... and have been very fortunate to be given some special pieces. I love my dad's Praktica TL3 manual 35mm SLR that was built in West Germany before the Wall came down. I also love the Voigtlander Vito CL that I inherited from a lovely couple in my church... who wanted to pass it on to someone who would cherish it after their son refused it because it wasn't digital.

Ask yourself this... will you keep your current digital camera for fifty years and seek to pass it on to the next generation? If not, why is that?

I think we need to think more about our possessions... we need to take responsibility for what we buy. We need to move beyond the instant gratification today / throw away tomorrow attitude of consumption and move towards the comfort of familiar things.

I can't get the minimalist lifestyle. I deeply respect folks who can exist with everything they own on their laptop and "in the cloud"... but I'm not that kind of person. I appreciate good design and thoughtful form/function... and enjoy having things around me... that do what I need them to do for me.

I do think there is an ideal that we can both get behind... that less is more. What backs this up is an appreciation of what we have... and looking beyond the hype to the actual need.

Don't get me wrong... I never thought I would need an iPad but I am glad I have one and understand why I need it - what it does for me that my other things don't or, at least, don't do as well. In essence, I appreciate it. I appreciate the gift, the thought behind it and I appreciate what it brings to my life.

I think that's the point of this rather rambling post... we need to appreciate more what we have. To do this, we need to think more about what we purchase. I don't believe the world needs more stuff... but I do think the world needs better stuff.

That's what I think anyway...



Anonymous said...

This reminds me.... do you do camera repairs, because if you do I may have an old camera you would be interested in that I could pass on. I'm pretty sure it's the same model as shown in this picture:

It was a birthday present from my parents many years ago, but hasn't been functioning since I reclaimed it having left it in the taxi on my wedding day in 1999 (another item with history ;) ). It fails to wind on the film, but it might be a simple fix. Drop me a tweet if you're interested. Oh, and I've got a flash and an additional zoom lense for it.

Angus Mathie said...

I agree entirely with the points you made and the conclusion. I believe firmly that it is justifiable to spend a bit more on an item you want to keep for a "long time". This is why I resent the notion that we accept "built in obsolescence"and "last year's fashion". Marketing and peer pressure can be countered by informed,thoughtful purchases which buck the "latest, must have" trend.


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