There’s delight in collecting things. American Pickers is one of the most popular shows on the History Channel. Another show, Storage Wars, depicts how certain collections have afforded owners fortunes beyond their wildest dreams. Then again, the same show demonstrates how junk accumulates and costs more than it is worth to get rid of it.
As a kid I loved to collect sports cards. My mom would give me money for chores, and I’d take that twenty-five cents and run to Kenmore Meats and Grocers (“Joe’s”) to buy a package of baseball cards for fifteen cents. I’d pop the stick of gum in my mouth, blow bubbles and crack it, sit on the stoop and thumb through them to see what I had. “Got it-Got it-Need it- Need it-Got it – Need it-Need it- Got it”… There might be another kid or two standing out there waiting to see if he could pick up a trade. I had quite a collection — shoeboxes full of them.
I had to hide them all from my Dad. My obsession with collecting them drove him crazy. He saw the number of cards I amassed and questioned why I loved them so much. “They aren’t going to be worth anything to you”. I didn’t have a good answer, but that didn’t stop me. I was hooked.
My cousin gave me a Mickey Mantle rookie card. Boy, I thought that was the greatest gift. My Dad was right; I outgrew card collecting and they collected dust in the attic. The Mick was tossed with the others when we cleaned the attic. Last time I looked on Ebay, that mint condition card fetched a price of $72,000.00. I moved on to collecting records in my adolescent years.
The legendary playwright Tennessee Williams was a master at depicting the pathos behind his characters and their need to collect things. In “Glass Menagerie” Laura collects glass figures. On one hand she identifies with the artfulness of the figurines and their fragility. On the other hand, the “gentleman caller” Jim calls her out for hiding behind the collection and her low self-esteem, underestimating her abilities. She protects herself. In the play “Streetcar Named Desire”, Blanche collects romantic trysts to remind her of bygone days when she was youthful and vital. Her brother-in-law Stanley calls her out. Her dalliances with young men are her undoing and forces her to move in with her sister Stella and her brutal husband who rapes her in the play. In “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof”, Big Daddy calls out his wife for collecting art and keeping it in boxes in the basement. She protects herself by collecting the past and boxing it up never to be opened.
There’s an old story about hunters in Africa who try to capture a monkey. They would place a jar full of food for the monkey to get. The jar was full of nuts and pieces of banana. The monkey would reached in and grab the food making a fist. As the monkey tried to pull the hand out, it would get stuck. The only way for the monkey to free his hand was to let go of the food, but the monkey was so hungry that it refused to release the food. While the monkey was trying to figure this out, the hunters would place a net over him and he was caught.
How do we avoid getting our hand caught in the jar? What are the things we collect that could be our downfall?
For some of us it’s memories, regrets and resentments. For others it is the psychological trauma that comes with hurt from childhood experiences. We have collected conditioned responses and low self-esteem that has settled in the sub-conscious mind. Some have collected foolish pride. Others have collected the habits from their parents and idiosyncrasies of their behavior. Some things we collect are harmless, but others can be our downfall.
No one escapes the collection of habits that dig into the trenches of the mind. Sometimes the subconscious mind can hold on to things longer than we realize. We go fishing in our personal psychology, and we can forget that we ever put certain ideas in there. We can bring ideas out of the cellar of the subconscious and see what they mean to us. We can see the treasures and trash that make us who we are and pick through what will serve us and what will stifle us.
We can see them for what they are and who we are. There is holy treasure waiting to be put on display. Through honest self-evaluation and assessment of our needs, we can see how the challenges we have collected have served us or taken up too much room and need to be discarded.
Spiritual attunement to your needs can help eliminate these things… knowing that you’ve made the best decision for the given time is critical.
Jesus calls out the rich man for placing his excess riches in storehouses. There’s a great deal to unpack here. He’s calling out the immorality of keeping things for one’s self when the poor could use it. It is a demonstration of protection and a lack of faith to hang on to things that could be used by others. It can also be said that he’s calling out a deeper reality of attachment. We hang on to things we don’t need. The storehouse ties us down and is an albatross of fear around our necks.
It’s one thing to enjoy the pleasures of material items, it’s another to shelter yourself from the world and bury yourself in them to hide from the world, thus trapping yourself in attachment.