Fountain Pen Collecting – what prompts me to behave the way I do?
Fountain pen collecting is, my fellow collectors will agree, a complex topic. Neither do we know the psychology that propels us to go to seemingly irrational lengths, nor can we, in all fairness, describe our behaviour logically most of the time. Yes, passionate we are in our defence, but most of the time, we know in the heart of our hearts, how hollow our arguments are.
I have talked to many psychologists to understand why I have the kind of super strong desire to acquire and own fountain pens that I have and, the explanations that I have gathered from them are, at the lest, as bewildering as the obsession is.
Some have labelled my hobby an addiction. According to this explanation, the pleasure centre in my brain gets activated every time I acquire a new pen. Naturally, to get that “high”, I keep myself in perpetual motion – and acquiring fountain pens becomes an end in itself. The period of satiation, they say, gets increasingly smaller which prompts me to acquire more to keep myself in the state of demented bliss that I get from fountain pen collecting.
Some psychologists have however explained by behaviour by more evolutionary terms – tracing it back all the way to Carl S Jung and our ancestors when they were hunter gatherers. As the best hunters and gatherers were the ones that passed their DNA’s on, it is natural to surmise that I “gather”, because of that streak is in my blood. My fountain pen collecting ways, are therefore, a mere intellectual manifestation of a primal instinct. Now, that’s ancient.
On a more profound plane, I have been told that the single-minded devotion with which I go about my fountain pen collecting is actually a desire to defy death, the fear that stems from the deepest recesses of my mind. The whole urge sprouts from a latent yearning to create something that will literally out-live me – that I am just a custodian and my collection is my way of seeking to embrace eternity.
More down to Earth is the explanation that seems to suggest that this crazy thing (both my wife and mother will vouch) about fountain pen collecting is little me’s desperate attempt to connect with something much larger than I actually am. Something akin to people turning to religion, to cults even. It is my way of connecting, through the objects of my desire – fountain pens, with moments in history, with great events, great people, greatness … that the pens represent. Yes, it explains my yearning for every bit of detail about the pens in my collection, of their histories, of the times they represent and the men (and women) who wielded them.
Again, according to Russell Belk, living in a consumer culture as we do, we are defined by our possessions. According to this school of thought, my fountain pen collecting is both a subconscious rejection and celebration of consumerism. By collecting fountain pens, I am rejecting the crass consumerism of use-and-throw ball point pens, while I am embracing it by defining myself by the quality and value of my collection.
However, there are also people who explain the inexplicable by stating that it is actually mastery that I am after. That my obsession with fountain pen collecting is actually my way incorporating a semblance of order in the otherwise chaotic environment of which I am merely a part. I have no control over my environment and my “hobby” (if that is the correct term in the context) is actually a form of a rebellion, where I seek to curve out a little niche where I am the Lord and Master. After all, I alone decide what my collection will comprise of, what to add and what to discard.
I have also had people explaining my fountain pen collecting as a mere anxiety buster. They quote Warner Muensterberger and explain things by drawing parallels with an infant seeking comfort in a security object like a blanket or a doll. Acquiring new fountain pens, they say, provides relief from anxiety – loneliness and uncertainty even. The fountain pens, they say are my teddy bears, lullabies. How quaint. Oh, they also point out that I must continue to collect, to stave off whatever unwelcome feelings that rock my subconscious to force me into collecting. Now, that’s soothing. Point is I just love spending time with my fountain pens and yes, the time spent is totally, clearly, unequivocally, cathartic. Yes, I caress them. Yes, I talk with them. Talk “with”, not “to”, see? And no, it is not penophilia.
There was another who explained my fountain pen collecting, taking me on a trip to my repressed desire for collecting as a child, which may have peaked when I was about ten, and is now finding an outlet. You know, more free time, disposable cash, more control over my life and stuff like that. My pens may also, thus, be my way of fondly looking at my childhood: and collecting them, a way of trying to ride the time machine to re-live it. Interesting. I myself have a much simpler explanation for my fountain pen collecting though – I just love buying. I suffer from the same bouts that some others feed with calories. Simple. I have the same urges that makes my wife buy shoes and makes me buy fountain pens – and yes, I didn’t need to go to a shrink to figure that out .
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