1. Introduction: Objects, and being in the world
People sometimes say to me, you’re quite particular about… forks, say. Or notebooks, or wrapping paper, or of course, pens. I’d like to think they mean, say, tasteful, or perceptive, but I’ve learned, that’s generally not it. No, there’s some suspicion about appreciation and attentiveness to objects, beyond a point. Why is that?
We’re also told that objects aren’t the path to happiness, may often hinder it: as for example in the New York Times piece, “But Will It Make You Happy?” (August 7, 2010) that originally prompted me to write about this. The author notes, in summary, “people are happier when they spend money on experiences instead of material objects.” It cites the notion in psychology of “hedonic adaptation,” meaning that changes in circumstance, such as a new possession, tend to quickly stop affecting you.
However, conceding the point that our happiness may relate more to having strong relationships and good experiences — for some — I’d like to see the care for objects as something equally basic and valid, deep in our homo faber (tool-maker) natures. More particularly, I think of it in the tradition of moral/social/aesthetic reactions to industrialization: such as the 19th-century Arts and Crafts movement, and its descendent Modernism and latter-day movements (“Maker,” etc.).