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A significant portion of the world's population is engaged in activities that completely baffle me. There are the big things I don't get, like war and greed and polluting the planet, and the mostly unimportant, but hugely popular things I don't get like beauty pageants and professional wrestling, and the utterly meaningless things I don't get like reality TV, hoarding stuff, and collecting. Over the years I have known people who collected everything from paper clips to cars and frankly, as far as I can see, although size, material value, or relative virtue of the items collected were many and varied, the personalities and motivations of the collectors were identical.
A lot of people are hoarders – it must be a part of human nature dating back to our early days as a primitive agricultural society. Hoarding undoubtedly made sense when you had very little, and in terms of survival, since we were apt to go long stretches without anything growing that we could eat due to floods, droughts, wars, pillaging, and numerous other possible disasters. Hoarding was a precaution against all sorts of ills that might befall us without warning. Prior to that we were hunter/gatherers who followed game and seasons and hoarding would have been a bit of insanity since we spent a lot of our lives wandering around on foot and no one had invented padded backpacks or suitcases on wheels to drag behind us. In fact, no one had even invented the wheel yet, an act of genius that helped facilitate a lot of things, including hoarding. Logically, hoarding didn't even exist until we decided to settle down in one place, and the longer we stayed there, the more we hoarded, and the more we hoarded, the useless things we hoarded grew exponentially.
People who collect and hoard big, expensive things are ridiculously proud of themselves. Whether they collect cars, or art, or pretty young blonds, they invariably believe that their collection is somehow an indicator of their success and importance. By the same token, people who collect thousands of things with frogs or butterflies on them are just as proud and just as anxious to show them off. I have had friends who have called me on the phone to come to their house to see their latest bizarre acquisition with a dragonfly on it and actually believe that I would be as excited about it as they are. It never occurred to them that one more dragonfly in a house covered in them might just be one dragonfly over the line.
The thing about hoarding and collecting is that people don't seem to know when to stop. I know that there is a word for people who do it compulsively and have an actual diagnosable condition that is some kind of subtype of obsessive/compulsive disorders. As a matter of fact, there are studies which suggest that compulsive hoarding is actually genetic in families with a history of OCD and is linked to chromosome number 14. I'm not entirely sure what any of that means, but I think that it falls under the heading of, “You're born that way,” or, “You got it from your Aunt Edna”. That kind of behavior is on the outer limits of hoarding and undoubtedly difficult to overcome. Most people with this condition are not very selective about what they hoard, anything qualifies, from newspapers to plastic forks. What I don't get falls more under the heading of collecting, which is an entirely different thing. I don't think that my friend collected dragonflies in hundreds of incarnations because she had something going on with her 14th chromosome. The only positive thing about her obsession was that it made it ridiculously easy to buy her birthday presents.
Some people become collectors against their will. Often, people will get it in their heads that you collect something when it is the farthest thing from your mind and the last thing you would ever want to do. I ended up with dozens of statues of Buddha because someone once gave me one and told everyone else to do the same. Before I knew it I had more Buddhas than Cambodia and didn't have the heart to tell anyone that, while I had nothing whatsoever against poor Buddha, I had no desire to own 2 dozen of him. I once knew a very nice gentleman who had a co-worker who gave him one of those wooden duck decoy things for his office. Before you could say, Elmer Fudd he had been given a duck in one form or another by most of the people who worked with or for him. His office looked like an advertisement for Field and Stream. When he retired his wife helped him pack up all his ducks and they took them home. The very same day he built a large bonfire in his backyard and threw every single duck into the flames.
“What on earth are you doing?” asked his alarmed wife.
All he said in the way of an explanation was, “I hate those ducks. I've hated those ducks for 20 years.”
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