catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 4, Num 4 :: 2005.02.25 — 2005.03.10


The joy of collecting?dust

I have a large collection of sci-fi fantasy and horror movies, music, models, toys and posters. Writing for a web site, the postman is always bringing me something from his goody bag. Kids in my art appreciation classes dream of being king of swag mountain someday and adults often get all goofy when they encounter some toy they remember playing with when they were kids.

So you?d think I?d find all that cool stuff a pretty big distraction what with being surrounded by it all the time. That I would constantly get up in the middle of what I was doing to go down memory lane, or play with some of this stuff. But the truth is, in spite of the fact I?ve spent a lot of years and money collecting it, I take my special collection for granted most of the time. Oh there?s always some minor rearranging to make room for more. I pull items or groups of items to use in our educational programs. Every once in a while I bring something home for my son to play with but mostly, the stuff just sits.

So as the pile gets bigger I occasionally weed out items that make me go, “What was I thinking when I bought that?” Or maybe I sell something to help buy something else. There?s always one more thing out there right? Right now I?m saving up for a Dark Carnival Wolf Man

bust. The stuff comes and goes, comes and goes. Of course the theory is that the collection gets cooler as time goes on. My collection has had time to get plenty cool.

There?s the vinyl 1:1 scale Frankenstein and Phantom busts from Cineart, the Randy Bowen quarter-scale Cold Cast Porcelain Wolfman, my massive movie collection and my complete EC Tales from the Crypt, Haunt of Fear, Vault of Horror hardcover comic sets. Vintage ad art for the Night Gallery and Universal Video Promotions, Frankenstein Fossil watch, a coffin complete with skeleton. Now mind you none of this stuff is worth much. I?ve never paid more than $150 for anything I?ve bought and usually considerably less. But I don?t really collect for value. Which brings up the question exactly why do I collect this stuff?

I?ve come to believe that the ideal answer would be two-fold. On the one hand, it?s a largely indefinable expression of who I am, the person that God created and I believe He enjoys this aspect of my individuality. In other words having made me to respond to His creation, God enjoys my enjoyment of it. There’s a spiritual nourishment there that is wholly worthwhile, all based on the simple idea of instinctually liking something even when you can’t quite put your finger on why.

Of course this conclusion is buttressed by the second part of my answer. What motivates my enjoyment isn?t entirely indefinable. Many of these objects speak eloquently of my search for meaning, my frustration of living in a fallen world, fear of death and desire for redemption, These are powerful ideas for anyone, Christian or not. And for me these characters and the stories they are set in serve as reminders of where I was headed in my life before I was rescued by my creator and where I could wind up if I don?t purpose to follow him. In short my collection is like a combination personal art museum, church and playground. To the degree that I give it the proper place in my life, it has lasting value for me as a person, as an eternal being.

But the other day I lifted my bleary eyes from the computer screen in which I spend way too much time in front of and noticed something. I hadn?t taken a look at the shelves in front of my desk in a long time. These hard sought after things were always there for me to enjoy but, for the most part, I hardly ever noticed them anymore. I buried my head in my work or, curiously, into finding a way to get that next thing to add to the collection. A thick layer of dust had accumulated and I don’t just mean over the stuff on the shelves. My heart was up there, too. Lost in the cares of the world, anxious about money, driven by the ambition of getting numbers up on my website, forgetting to take time out and be grateful for what I had by simply enjoying it a little.

Over the years I?ve met many collectors who struggle with the same issues. Some of these people are (or were) quite wealthy and famous. People flocked to their homes to see the sacred relics of their culture: famous film props, once grasped by the hands of people like Boris Karloff, Buster Crabbe, Ray Harryhausen and even Ed Wood. During my own visits to these people?s homes I was slack jawed. Objects of incredible cultural interest and importance were around every corner, things that I might have given a digit or two to call my own. But my conversations with the collectors themselves took my thoughts in a different direction. One collector spoke solemnly to me about suicidal feelings he?d struggled with after an earthquake had damaged several important pieces in his collection. Another, older and recently widowed had obviously long since stopped taking any joy in his items and invited my friend and I to roam unescorted through his large house while he napped. His lonely existence didn?t seem benefited much from being a world famous collector. These kind and gracious people were more than willing to share stories, their homes, their and their stuff but in varying degrees they had all discovered an important truth.

The relatively recent explosion of interest in horror fantasy and science fiction has made collecting all the really desirable items out there basically impossible for anyone except the super rich and maybe in the end this is a good thing. When I look over my collection I’m surprised at what really stirs a sense of connection. My grandmother’s birthday was October 31st and when she died the family let me have all the Halloween costumes and decorations. I have several things I remember her using and wearing. A Robby the Robot model kit autographed by Forbidden Planet star Anne Frances is less a remembrance of meeting her than hanging out with my two best friends at Wonderfest a couple of years ago. I even have one or two of my son?s earliest playthings scattered in the mix and those bring out feelings no model kit or expensive toy ever could.

It?s easy enough to call to mind what the Bible has to say about hoarding things for their own sake. A host of scriptures having to do with idolatry also come to mind. But first and foremost I wonder about what Christ told the disciples before he sent them out, saying, ?Don’t worry about what you’re going to wear.? Maybe Jesus told the disciples not to worry about what they were going to wear because He knew clothes would not make them happy. He didn’t just want the disciples to have nothing-but-God, he wanted them to have everything-in-God: an awareness that after all our stuff fades away, after our collection is dispersed or set on someone else’s shelf we have already gone on to greater “things.” By things I mean the intimacy of being perfectly collected ourselves by someone who appreciates us and never takes us for granted. All of this is predicated on the idea that you believe each person is a one of a kind collectable.

It’s also predicated on the idea that each person can be lost, become utterly undesirable, a common thing not worth a second glance, unable to bring joy to anyone?these are chilling thoughts indeed, thoughts that are starting to accompany me as I contemplate collecting the world but also contemplate losing my soul.

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