Collection and Collective

It occurred to me the other day, while arguing right-of-way with a bumpkin that Greater Metropolitan Arab is one of those places where driver run STOP signs if no one else is using them.

I didn’t have any problem getting to the park this morning but then no 4-way STOPs along the way. The weather was a bit off. Air temperature in mid-40s and a mild wind. Just enough to be cooling. My ears are just now recovering sensation. The podcast was an episode of “The Pen Addict” which should stretch through the week out.

The thought trail I wandered off on this morning was “what makes us have these nit noid special interests?” I am not talking about our disciplines; physics is not nit noid except to asentient bogs. Nor am I talking about things like cooking which are peripheral to survival. Rather I mean things like an addiction to pens or notebooks or calculators or slide rules or collecting pins or stamps or coins. We rationalize these activities, especially the collections, as a form of wealth accumulation although almost universally they prove to be anything but. Beanie Babies being a case in point. 

It would be nice if we could say this was a by-blow of intelligence but that ain’t so. Several animals collect stuff. I have read that crows collect ‘shiny things’ and that pack rats collect something, I am unsure of the qualifier. So this behavior cannot be simply a matter of high overhead brains. But since it manifests in many, if not all, humans it must have some beneficial aspect. 

It seems to be related to whatever drove us to abandon hunter-gathering and adopt sedentary agriculture. Clearly hunter-gatherers were limited in what collections they could have. Maybe a favorite rock or two so long as they were capable tools or unburdensome jewelry, but no stamp albums or ceramic figures in glass cases. 

An aspect of this has to be some form of us-them. There is clearly an aspect that whatever one does in this special way has to distance one from the mass but also have some (few?) colleagues so that comparisons and critiques are possible. Unique collections or interests are often viewed as a form of insanity, which incidentally is clearly a social and not a physiological illness, but as soon as there are a few who do this thing it enjoys social tolerance if not acceptance. It’s a bit like religion: if one does it, it’s terrorism but if two (or more) do it, it’s a church. Which is intriguingly a complete reversal of how religion should be. 

Selah. For now.

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