Liking Too Much of Everything
I’ve noticed a trend in recent years where, as Christmas approaches and I try to come up with lists of things I want for my friends and family, I am reminded of Christmas gifts of past years and my complete lack of utilizing or appreciating them. This stems from two causes. One, I don’t really want a lot. Ever since I lost 99% of my possessions in a Hurricane of a Certain Age, I’ve become less focused on mad collecting, less of a believer in the idea of establishing your identity through an outward projection of stuff you like or admire. I really like the movie The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly a lot, but I have fewer and fewer opportunities to sit down and watch a 400 minute movie anymore, and, besides, once you know the outcome of that last shootout…how many more times do you need to sit through all the boring bits? So I never bought that one again, and it never made its way onto any wishlist.
Secondly, the things I do want to own, possess, and feel in my hand are all too expensive to expect anyone to buy me for Christmas. I guess the same is true for anyone who doesn’t have a Google Venture Capitalist in their extended family, but for me there is a strange gap between the trivial (new underwear, Graham Greene in paperback) and the necessary (new radiator, wireless/noise-canceling headphones) where all the presents I end up receiving lie.
I have several nice, hardcover books I’ve never read or even thought about picking up: books about Bob Dylan, books about Art, compendiums, almanacs, hysteric indices of all sorts. They play to my interests but rarely my soul. I have DVDs enough to fill my little fixture but they are constantly outdated and poor seducers of my time. And don’t even get me started on the boxes of blank journals, diaries, hard-bound composition books, and notepads I have. I will have to start planting trees in the interest of ecological balance soon.
The real problem is that I like Too Much of Everything. This is as true abstractly as is is physically. What I really would love one year is for every family member to buy me a different bottle of scotch or bourbon…but openly announcing that would be tantamount to printing invitations to my own intervention. People in my family–good, wholesome people–tolerate a fondness for paintings and dark crime fiction…but not the fact that a disciplined palate is born of great quantities of high proof liquids. What I really would love is someone to pay the balance of one of my favorite professor’s salary until he reaches Social Security age and have him tutor me eight hours a week on Joseph Campbell and Newton. Though his salary might come down a peg or two if he knew I had all that scotch and bourbon.
What I’d really love is a personal assistant who scans the internet all day for music that I’d like and just hands me a new, pre-loaded mp3 player every morning alongside my coffee. Oh, but I also need a coffee assistant to tell me which varieties to buy. Oh, and as far as breakfast goes, having my own private pig farm, butcher, and smokehouse wouldn’t be so bad either.
You see how easily I get out of control?
The real issue is Not Wanting to Get Left Behind. When I was a kid there was only one type of food that had 50 varieties: breakfast cereal. But the overpowering advertising of that day and age and the constant idea that the pantry is always fuller on the other side has led not just me but all members of my generation who are middle-class to seethe and gnash when left to have to choose only one item out of five or split our finite free time amongst the 495 items on our Netflix queue. Maybe I can’t speak for the rest of them. Maybe for all of them it’s just boredom. For me, at least, I really want to know. I have to know it all. I’m not a completist…I could be burning the pages as soon as I read them. But I do so desperately want to scan all of them, even if briefly. I want to be able to ably advise or criticize, to have in my hand all the aces, even if half of them are just wild deuces.