The party goes global...

Free counters!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Is materialism dead?

Recently I found myself faced with the task of sorting through piles of CDs, stacks of books and comics, and heaps of DVDs that have accumulated over the past few years of reviewing and compulsive consumption. Not surprisingly, I find myself somewhat overwhelmed, but pushed on with it anyway. I figured, it would take some doing to list everything I want to get rid of—a couple dozen DVDs, a couple hundred CDs, God knows how many books—but the good thing is, there’s always someone somewhere who will want them. Right?

Mm—hold that thought.

I did what any normal person does who wants to shift a big bunch of units: I put an ad on Craigslist. It did not escape me that many other people have apparently had this thought as well. In fact, there’s a whole category on CL for selling cd/dvd/vhs, and another category for selling books. And there were plenty of ads up already.

Still, I didn’t sweat it too much. I figured I had really good stuff, and new besides, and I was asking very little, just $4 or $5 for a new DVD, and a lot less per disc for multi-disc sets. CDs are $3 ech, 4 for $10. I hoped I’d be able to withstand the barrage of phone calls. The books I figured I’d do later, once the initial frenzy had died down.

You can see where this is going. No one has called. Meanwhile, more ads are going up on CL every day.

All of which has gotten me to wondering: have people become less materialistic? It seems hard to believe, but… at least in this way, in the obsessive collecting-of-media way that was so prevalent when I was in, say, college—when people hoarded records and books, and VHS wasn’t even invented yet, never mind DVD or blu-ray? Does this newest generation of consumers, the ones growing up on downloaded tunes and movies and TV shows and Kindle, have no need for physical, tangible, material objects in order to focus their attention? (Games too, I guess, though I don't have much experience with or attention for games.) And if so, is this a good thing, or does the loss of the tangible object somehow represent a lessening of involvement with the song/movie/book it represents?

I remember buying records—or later, CDs—and poring over the cover art, the inserts, the liner notes. A DVD would have production info on the back cover, plus a few choice stills, and if you were luck, a nifty booklet inside with some nugget of trivia. A book, well, a book had a cover, and pages, and everything. And you never had to worry about its battery running down or its software becoming out of date.

I don’t mean to be an old fart who bemoans the artefacts of his past. Life moves on, I get it. Last year I independently published a fantasy eBook, and I’ve downloaded my share of songs from Amazon and instant-view movies from netflix and Hulu. But I still like stuff. I like things I can hold. I like comic books I can spread open before me and a CD insert I can linger over while listening to the song. Apart from making me seem horribly old-fashioned and out of touch, I wonder if this also makes me shallowly materialistic compared to people who have found a way, like Buddha, to jettison those desires.

Then again maybe not. Maybe they’re just as grasping as I am, just for different things. I don’t care about the latest phone or the nicest car or the trendiest clothes. Plenty of people do. Maybe we all share the impulse to acquire; it’s just the details of what we’re acquuiring that have shifted a bit in my lifetime.


Susie said...

Well, I'm a total Kindle/iTunes/digital convert. And trying to sort through all my "stuff" that takes up space in the basement. CD inserts are the best though.

As far as books, I do happen to own Preservationist, Samson, and Fallen, so that counts for something, right? But, keeping with my new digital-only policy, I've finally started Gamble of the Godless, and am super enjoying it. As much as it pains me to move on from the biblical stuff, Gamble has the same tone that I loved from your other books.

That being said, I have a running list in my head of biblical characters that need a good story written about them, should you feel a need to depart from your current creative path and make your biggest fan happy :)

Thanks for thinking of me and checking in. For now, I'm only growing a baby and not a tumor, which is fantastic news. All positive thoughts sent my way mean the world to me, but especially when they come from hawaii.

David Maine said...

Hey Susie! Great to hear from you. And I'm glad to hear you're doing well. That's just terrific. I hope you keep on doing just fine. More than that: I demand that you keep on doing better & better.

As for owning those books on paper--heck yeah, that counts for a lot!

Thanks for trying out Gamble too. I seem to be getting some nice response, which is fun. It was a little nerve-wracking, setting out on the self-publishing, genre fiction track, but what the heck, I thought the book was pretty good and I'm glad you agree.

As for other Bible stories, don't count that out altogether. I've long had an idle (or semi-idle) idea of doing the Jonah story as a graphic novel. Problem is, I can't draw to save my life. You don't draw, do you? Or paint / sketch / collage / whatever in a visual medium? Don't be shy. I'm feeling the urge to collaborate...

Get busy getting yourself better. And tell that man of yours to keep on taking care of you. (I have a suspicion he's been doing pretty well so far.)