Wednesday 13 July 2016


The Collector's Syndrome

Last weekend we visited "Den Gamle By," an outdoor museum in Arhus, Denmark's second largest city, that showcases how city life was like in Denmark from the 1500 to 1974. At the ancient toy museum, I came across this exhibit of a toy collector's home. The commentary accompanying the glass exhibit reads:

"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt... For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Matthew 6:19 & 21

"To collect is to possess. Nowadays there are no end to the list of collector's items. Private collections testify to the social status of their owners. Collecting requires both spare time and money. Therefore there is a difference between collecting classical gold coins and matchboxes, between Biedermeier paintings and promotional pens. The life of a private collector can be both a peaceful and a satisfying one, allowing him to watch the slow growth of his collection. It may also, however, turn into a frantic and competitive quest for the oldest, the rarest, the most beautiful or the most expensive of objects. Are collectors really happy people?"

The commentary ended with the question: "Are collectors happy?" 

I stood and reflected on the commentary. It spoke to me directly.

I do not think so. Collectors can't be that happy if they are in a constant quest "for the oldest, the rarest, the most beautiful or the most expensive of objects."

Although I am not a collector, my life can sometimes reflect the collector's characteristics. Although I am not out to look "for the oldest, the rarest, the most beautiful or the most expensive of objects," my relentless quests in other areas can be no different from the collector's. 

My "kiasu Tiger Mom" tendency towards preparing our children for academic performance and paper chase can in some ways be compared to the collector's pursuit of his collection. I ask myself: "Will our children be happy?" No.

It brought to mind what a Danish mom once said that she is not afraid that her kids would not learn, they will. What confidence!!! I don't have that. I put it at the central of our family life and above many other things else to plan and make sure that our kids learn. It is a timely reminder that if I am not careful, I can develop the "collector's syndrome." I need to seek God's wisdom to show restraint.

It also reminds me of an article that I read about the general Singapore parents.

Are Singaporeans happy? Singaporeans do not score very high on the happiness index. From a very poor country 50 years ago to become one of the richest, cleanest, most well-planned and well-run countries 50 years later. Despite its achievements, one thing remains - Singapore may not be truly feeling fulfilled and happy, but anxious as a country, with the constant need to compete and do better. 

What about you? Which aspects of you are a collector?

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