I tend to collect stuff – usually not collectible things like stamps or coins or Beanie Babies (are people crazy?). I like to collect odd things. It’s the child in me and I am not about to apologize for that and I am not about to change it. Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” I imagine he’s right (see what I did there?).
As to keeping the child in me alive, I would like to make the point that children start off with imagination, and then we adults try to force them into emptying the “imagination” part of their brains so we can help them fill those brains with knowledge. We do that in order to help them make rational decisions like buying Beanie Babies off eBay. Don’t ask me why; I don’t have a clue.
As to the motivation for collecting odd things, ask any child why they picked up and kept a rock that had an unusual band of color in it, had a fossil in it, or had a funny shape. Their reasoning tends to be relatively simple. They did it because they liked it and they liked it because it was cool. Try to argue with that. It will take all of the knowledge you’ve acquired and even then, you’ll lose. That reasoning is sufficient for them, and it is sufficient for me. Besides keeping something for the memories involved in whatever I’ve collected, I most often keep something because I think it’s cool – or I keep it because I can imagine a story behind it. Let me give you an example of something I’ve kept, and will go on keeping. It is something I am pretty damn proud of. Spoiler alert – it involves rocks.The fossils in this picture are called crinoids stems. They are the fossilized remains of an aquatic animal called a crinoid. When I was going to college in Carbondale, Illinois, I enjoyed hunting fossils in the old strip mines. I never found anything of value or anything very cool (I knew a guy who found a fossilized nautilus, the bastard!). But I did find a lot of fossilized crinoid stems – so many of them that I stopped bending over to pick them up. I kept a few, but over the years the majority of them have gotten lost in our many moves (my wife and I might be considered migratory).
The rock theme continues. I have some arrowheads. I keep them because they’re cool, and because my father, my brother (my last remaining brother) and I walked miles and miles of fields looking for them several years in a row in early spring, right after a rain. I keep them because someone spent a long time making them – some Indian looked for the right rock, and began chipping away all of the excess rock until the arrowhead revealed itself.So, how do crinoid stems and arrowheads converge in my story? This is how they converge. I was looking at arrowheads on eBay, thinking of buying a few nice ones to finish off a frame of arrowheads when I came upon one arrowhead – a single arrowhead on eBay. Unless the arrowhead is rare and valuable, no one sells a single arrowhead, but on this particular day, someone was doing just that. They had it listed as “Arrowhead with a hole in it.”
Look, no self-respecting arrowhead collector would ever intentionally buy a single arrowhead with a hole in it. But I like to collect odd things, and the description “self-respecting” left this old body long ago. So, I clicked on the link to look at the arrowhead; and sure enough, it had a hole in it. What makes the arrowhead unusual, and of interest to me is that the hole looked a lot like a doughnut. The hole had a ring around it. I zoomed in as close as I could to discover that hole with the ring around it was, in fact, a fossilized crinoid stem.
Here’s the thing. At some time in the past – not sure how long ago – some Indian found a rock with something in it. He (or she) kept it because it was odd – maybe he liked it because it was cool. He (or she) put his (or her) imagination to work and chipped away all of the excess rock until the arrowhead revealed itself. I like to think about this Indian and what motivated him (damn it! or her) to make an arrowhead that had no real value because the hole makes it damn near useless as an arrowhead – but that hole – the fossilized crinoid stem – made that arrowhead cool. I am thinking the reason the Indian made the arrowhead with the hole in the middle was – for the same reason I keep it – because it’s cool!