Enough is Enough

Humans are collectors: we create things, then restrict the flow to inflate the value based on scarcity so we can call them ‘collectible’—a process that hinges on some very precarious cultural agreements. The early Polynesians sailed 10,000 kilometers across open oceans to trade seashells. In the 80s we collected Beanie Babies and hockey cards. Recently the Non-Fungible Token (NFT)* has us collecting digital media. No matter the object, the rarer it is, the more we seem to want it. 

What is it that appeals to us about collecting things that make us feel special? NFTs reveal that prestige is at the core of most of our collecting habits by removing any substantial object from the equation. I can own the NFT of the ‘original’ clip of a video, but those things are just zeros and ones on a hard drive somewhere. Aside from the blockchain ledger assigning ownership there is no way to distinguish it from a copy—the value is based entirely on the prestige of the bragging rights. 

The strangeness of how we value things is ever-present in the life of the artist. I’ve made a thing, now what is it worth? What if I make ten? Or fifty? Are more things better? Is cheaper more desirable? Ultimately my goal is to get art into the hands of patrons wherever I can find them, so I try to strike a balance between personal value and attainability. I may be old fashioned, or perhaps my work is not known enough to be ‘collectible,’ but I still hope that people who buy my work actually like to look at it. The question is where do we establish the true value of a thing?

To reconcile the cognitive dissonance of being part of, but wary of, the consumer industry, I try to make sure to surround myself with things that are good quality, beautiful, or meaningful. It’s good to enjoy living after all. I don’t want to be part of this hunger for more that requires a bigger house and then a storage unit. I like the idea of curating the things around me—not in a snobby way, just in a way that engages some kind of evaluation process for the things that enter my living space. Sometimes even when I make the wrong choice it teaches me about what I value when I pass it on to its next home. The emotional value is the real currency.

I don’t think I ever want a big living space, so this idea of ‘enough’ has been rattling around in my head a lot. I have enough. In an existential way, we need to culturally embrace ‘enough-ness’ if we are going to fight pressing issues like climate change and inequity. 

At a personal level I just want my life to be as simple as I can reasonably get it, so I have time for the things of real value: family, community, art, music, and enjoying the wild spaces around me. For this reason, I want to give up on the idea of ‘more’ and chase the goal of ‘enough.’  

My challenge to you (and to myself) as we swing into gift-giving season, is to put some thought into the actual value of the things you are buying and sharing with each other. It’s not about how much our gifts cost, or how rare they are—they should be about how much happiness, joy, and connection we are giving. Most of us have enough things. Consider giving an online course, a donation to a cause, a piece of local art, or an experience that might be more poignant. Let’s create shared memories rather than some artificial form of prestige. We can never have enough wonderful moments—they are the only thing that increases in value when we create and collect more of them. 
* An NFT is a digital asset that represents real-world objects like art, music, in-game items and videos. They are bought and sold online, frequently with cryptocurrency, and they are generally encoded with the same underlying software as many cryptos. Source: www.forbes. com/advisor/investing/nft-non-fungible-token/