When I’ve grown big as daddy, I’m going to be a phillumenist.
“When I’ve grown small as daddy, I’m going to be a phillumenist.”
Never in a million years did I think I’d ever resurrect: “When I’ve grown small as daddy, I’m going to be a phillumenist.” The first sentence and the only one I remember from an essay I wrote in the sixth form (Year 12 nowadays). We’d been set the task of writing about the career we hankered after. I hadn’t a clue!
What an imposition to set a topic only fit for the cut-and-dried amongst us – far too much of a straitjacket for the likes of myself. Mid-teens, (it sometimes feels like I was stuck there for ten years!), thinking outside the box would have been an observer’s generous assessment of the romantic dreamscape I often found myself either dwelling or, alternatively, wallowing in.
Phillumenist. Nice metaphor for someone who thinks outside the box. (Or thinks they think outside the box?) The matchbox labels that a phillumenist collects are on the outside of the box. I don’t know of anyone who’s made a career of it – a career, that is, burgeoning from their hobby collecting matchbox labels; but plenty have made a career for themselves thinking outside the box – as out-there supremo Albert Einstein opined: “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
Stranger things have happened, but no, I didn’t end up a phillumenist – or, for that matter, make a hobby or career out of collecting anything – not even postage stamps, that immensely popular pastime for many of my parents’ generation and their baby boomer children. So, it’s a source of some befuddlement that over the course of the last three and a half years I’ve bought or been gifted a number of ‘owls that are little’ memorabilia. Unsurprisingly, no accident that that’s also how long I’ve been writing a blog about Little Owl Gully. When I first wrote about them in December 2021, I had 8 owls in my collection: little owl.
The number (16 at last count) shows no sign of terminating any time soon (mercifully increasing at a much, much slower rate than my accumulation of blog posts). It’s got to the stage that the notion that I’m now a collector has the power, on occasion, to mess with my head. Streaming on TVNZ Plus, the Australian series, ‘Offspring’, several episodes had scenes where siblings of the main character (Nina) made it abundantly clear that having her bedroom cluttered with owl memorabilia was somehow symptomatic of Nina’s neuroses. My own cringeworthy feelings on perceiving this made me realise that something was going on for me which was above and beyond merely cluttering my writing room with a collection of motley objects that just happened to represent owls.
Look up the psychology of collecting and you’ll find any number of reasons given as to why something like a quarter of all people (in the more affluent nations at least) are collectors. Wading through the mire, my conclusion is that the reason I now take pleasure in being a collector of little owl memorabilia is because the objects have become associated with my self-identity.
So, I’ve decided – no more cringing! Might as well take pleasure in my wee collection and stop the psychoanalysis! I choose to frame it in the way expressed in the following quotation:
… an interdisciplinary literature has emerged since the late decades of the twentieth century that moves our understanding and focus from the psychoanalytic study of objects in identity presentation and group membership….
A model of collecting is presented that treats the collecting process as normal, extended, and representative of an individual’s lived experience.”
Journal article by Andrew Dillon in Information and Culture, Vol. 54, No. 3, 2019 copyright 2019 by the University of Texas Press. See: ‘Collecting as Routine Behaviour: Personal Identity and Control in the Material and Digital World’ by Andrew Dillon
Big as daddy, I rest my case!