As I have mentioned more than a few times lately, I recently received a very massive iPod. So massive that I can put my entire collection on it, and still have room for a couple years worth of CD purchases(to be honest, I'm a bit ashamed that my entire collection fits so nicely on this one iPod). One of the great things about going disc by disc through my collection and importing them into a portable CD library is that I'm becoming reacquainted with some artists and albums that I haven't listened to in awhile. Some not even in this century. The usual question, and the one I've been asked by work friends who obviously don't know me well enough is 'why do you need all those CDs, if you don't listen to so many of them?' The obvious, logistical answer is that with so many albums in one collection, it's impossible to listen to them all regularly. But of course the real answer is probably the same one that would be given by anyone with a record collection in the triple(or quadruple) digits; these discs are important to me.
I know it isn't particularly enlightened, and we're all supposed to see material goods as nothing more than 'things', but if a house fire were to destroy my entire CD collection, DVD or book library, or even my collection of pop-culture memorabilia, I would be highly distraught. In the end these aren't family members, and so I wouldn't be devastated, but I am also more emotionally connected to my collection of 'things' than I think most people view as healthy. I can't yet explain it, as I've chosen not to closely analyze this compulsive collecting, but I think in the end I do agree with Rob from the novel High Fidelity; it's what a person likes that matters more than what a person is like. OK, a disclaimer; I don't follow that exactly, but I think the sentiment is a fairly close to how I view the world, good or bad.
People rarely show the outside world everything about themselves, and even the largest asshole you run into in the supermarket has hidden depths. The 'things' people buy can end up defining them in greater accuracy than a casual acquaintance could, if you know what to look for. And I think that's how I view my collection of CDs, books, movies and memorabilia. That after I'm gone, someone could sift through all of this stuff and know who I was, warts and all. They may not know that I have the admittedly lackluster Golden Earring album Cut on both Vinyl and CD because as a child my mom played that album during summer roadtrips across Alaska(this is also partly why I have so many Electric Light Orchestra albums, although the rest of the reason is because they rock!). There's no way someone randomly looking through my CDs would know that I own ABBA Gold because during a few months in London I would go to the club Trash every Monday with the Swedish woman I was staying with, and the final song every night was Dancing Queen. They played it ironically, I think, but I ended every night thinking 'this is the best song in the history of ever!' However this collection still traces the path of my life, my interests and my moods.
Everything I own has a story to go along with it, and a connection to my life that goes beyond what you might think. And although people probably won't get the whole story, my collection of 'meaningless things' forms as personal a roadmap of my life as any diary could be. If you know how to read it.