Sunday, August 1, 2010

On How We Come to Love what we Love, Including Old Things

Of those of us who have this attraction to old things – or affliction by them, more like – I suspect there are two types: those who came to it by love and those who came to it by privation. Either way the result is the same.

I originally settled on the manual typewriter because it was the most reliable piece of machinery I could get my hands on for $50. Once I had it, there was no need to pester well-meaning poor parents or tempermental rich grandparents for the likes of upgrades, ink cartridges, repairs, and diskettes. Nor was there any squandering of allowances, the earning of which was far too laborious and dear to apply to faddish devices.

I came to love my typewriters because they were mine, not because I'd had any particular draw to them in the first place. I suspect if the latest computers and printers had been easier to acquire, easier to replace and upgrade, I would have come to love those in the same way, through repeated experience of pleasure in their use. As it turned out, I wrote papers, stories, and love-letters on old machines, and so they worked a fetishistic magic on me.

Is this the healthiest reason to love something: because it is always there, and therefore convenient? But how about this reason: because it is reliable, and steady, and enduring. Certainly, we should take our time with things we are to invest our time and emotion into, just as we should with people.

After all, this is how we form the relationships that endure, among people: not from the hot-headed pursuit of the youngest and newest companion, but from the seasoning of shared experiences that accrue among those we find ourselves, by accident, convenience, or routine, in the presence of most often.

This is why, even though we have virtual access to over a billion souls through social networking sites on the internet, we spend the majority of our time on Facebook chatting with the folks we went to school with long ago. The seasoned relationships are the ones that mean the most to us.


I've convinced myself this is a perfectly reasonable way to come to love something, this circumstance and convenience.

The alternative – determination and pursuit - is overwhelming. It requires constant search and discernment, such a connoisseurs effort which, when it comes down to it (and despite it may feel otherwise) is in the hands of advertisers and marketing men anyhow.

Self-determiners assign themselves labels. They tell the world they are “preppy,” “goth,” “thrifty,” “refined;” they're “Harley” or “BMW.” They seek out clothes, accessories, and friends that match their categories, priding themselves on unique taste. But really they only landed in that category because of the display at the Hot Topic or J. Crew, or because all their friends rode motorbikes and they wanted one too.

I understand this desire to assign myself to marketing categories.  I'm not immune.  “What are you into?” Classical music, retrotech, science-fiction-literature, hiking, flying. Voila mon profil. Without categories, how can I market my blog? How could it ever be monetized?

But in reality, do I really belong in any of these? I only practice classical music a few hours each week. I don't have the space to accumulate any old junk beyond a few typewriters and old computers. Science fiction doesn't turn me on to the extent it used to, and though I have a yen to re-visit Moby Dick, I can't locate that copy I bought back in 1992. As for hiking, though I think I'd love to spend months charting every mile of trail in Acadia National Park, in truth I only have the time and energy for local pathways like the power-lines across the street. Oh, and I'm a passionate private pilot, having flown a total of 38.25 hours - 19 years ago.

So I've got to stretch the labels to get them to fit.  And I came by each of these phases and faces by accident first, and preference only through time. Does it speak ill of me that there have been so many (also sailing, running, and pipe-smoking) that it becomes impossible to define this life with any focus? A more aggressive and motivated sort might have made a choice and followed it through to a level of perfection and professionalism that could guarantee good fortune and career.

Me, I'm left to muddle along as best I can. None of the labels will stick* and I am well-nigh unmarketable.

*Except that I grow old. And shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.


  1. You are an excellent writer Winston! Your language is exquisite. Linda

  2. Isn't it sad that we do have the thoughts of our lives in monetized format? We are so much OF our time that even in our escape, our blogs, we feel that pressure to specialize and sell out. It raps at our windows even when our backs our turned.
    Linda-he is a marvelous writer, this is one path that should be followed with a furious fever pitch.

  3. Yes 50sgal, your dear husband's writing oozes with beautiful words that convey precise meaning and it's all done so seemingly naturally. A great talent indeed.. Linda