Monday, August 13, 2012

Is Collecting Bad?: The Fountain Pen and Our Consumerist Culture

To "have" objects and goods does not in itself perfect the human subject, unless it contributes to the maturing and enrichment of that subject's "being," that is to say unless it contributes to the realization of the human vocation as such ... The danger of the misuse of material goods and the appearance of artificial needs should in no way hinder the regard we have for the new goods and resources placed at our disposal and the use we make of them. - Bl. John Paul II Sollicitudo Rei Socialis 28,29

These seem to be contrary statements, but are rather intended to moderate our use of material goods. We live in  a society that idolizes materiality. I feel like I'm preaching to the choir being that most of us realize this. Realizing it is one thing, and not participating in it, is another thing altogether.

Take myself as a poor example. Back in January, I fell in love with fountain pens (they write so much better than ballpoints). They're messy. They are really nice looking, and they leave you open to an endless possibility of inks.

I loved taking notes with them while in my final semester of classes. I actually no longer took notes on my laptop or iPad. Over the course of six months, I have purchased a total of ... 1, 2, 18 fountain pens. My latest purchase is a set with Benedict XVI's signature on it. I got caught by the collector consumer bug, courtesy of Amazon and eBay. 

Now, seriously Kyle what are you going to do with eighteen fountain pens? Well, I use this one for this and this one for that and that one for signing checks and that one for homilies. I still don't use them all. I gave one to my sister. A few ended up being duds and unusable (which in itself proves the point).

Pens hold a certain nostalgia to them. Some of them make really cool fancy lettering. Some of them just look cool (like the one second from the left in the picture that is made from olive wood from the holy land.) 

Pens can contribute, as Bl. John Paul II, to the realization of the human vocation. They can be used to write down thoughts (I write out my homilies because for me, typing requires less energy and less memory). Thoughts are very important in the realization of the human vocation. They can communicate truth and beauty. But "to 'have' objects and goods does not in itself perfect the human subject." In other words, I don't need 17 pens to write my homily. I only need one. 

Where is the line drawn (no pun intended)? Is collecting things a pursuing something that does not bring us closer to God? Are there moral justifications for collecting, whether it be baseball cards, stamps, or fountain pens? Does such a hobby build us up? Dear reader, these are questions for which I do not have an answer. Sound off if you so desire and let me and others know what you think.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In this case the pen serves the purpose of writing, which is obvious, and encouraging writing, which is perhaps less obvious. To me that seems a worthwhile thing.