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On "need" And "want"


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#1 ethernautrix

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 08:03

Reading through this thread, How Many Fountain Pens Do You Need, No, Seriously?, it occurs to me that people will say, "I don't NEED" whatever. But what kind of life is it if all you had was what you strictly, bare-bones needed?

How narrowly do you define "need?"


Sure, maybe having more than several fountain pens goes beyond need into want territory, but what is life without desire? And I'm using that word advisedly, as coming from a culturally Buddhist background, desire (or attachment) is the root of suffering. But without desire, where is progress? Where is motivation?

So what does it mean to you to need?

What would your life look like if all you had was what you strictly needed? And would you be satisfied with that?

Edited by ethernautrix, 03 January 2013 - 08:03.

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#2 JonSzanto

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 08:15

I need oxygen to breath.
I need music in my life.

Same word, both statements true, certainly a variation in use. How deep into the philosophical differences should we delve?
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#3 dickydotcom

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 08:33

Need is a word long since dropped in our household.
It was replaced many years ago by, "I want must have." after I challenged my wife on the need for yet another handbag.
I no longer question her and she actually encourages me if I think about buying a new pen.

Dick D

#4 pajaro

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 08:47

I have used fountain pens since childhood, about 54 years now. Some of the pens are sentimental, about four of them. I want to keep them. I could live without them, though. You only need pens if you have to write something.
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#5 ronw

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 08:56

...what kind of life is it if all you had was what you strictly, bare-bones needed?

...

Sure, maybe having more than several fountain pens goes beyond need into want territory, but what is life without desire? And I'm using that word advisedly, as coming from a culturally Buddhist background, desire (or attachment) is the root of suffering. But without desire, where is progress? Where is motivation?

So what does it mean to you to need?

What would your life look like if all you had was what you strictly needed? And would you be satisfied with that?


Putting it that way, one could go a long way into the philosophy of that word, need. One could start with Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, for example. (Physical/Safety/Love/Esteem/Self-actualization/Self-transcendence)

Which neatly ties in with your question, "What is life without desire?" But one might as well ask, "What is life without self-control?" (At the very least, my wife would like me to answer that question.)

I've lived on the thin edge; I know folks for whom money has never been and will never be an issue. Knowing what I do about the ascetic and the gourmand, I can't even say I know which approach is healthier. Which is the short way of leading up to this: I don't think there's any universality to what constitutes need or desire. I don't think I even have a consistent view of, let alone approach to, either just in my own life. <g>

What I do have is a love for pens. That love is complex. First, I'm a writer. There is an element of inspiration in writing with a great pen, which is enormously valuable to me and comes in early in my personal hierarchy of needs. I wouldn't say I feel safe if I can't express myself; too many explosions start going off in my head and emotions if I am not writing. So at the most primitive level, and keyboards notwithstanding, a pen is a magical, even totemic item in my writing process. It has capabilities that have nothing to do with its physical properties. Posted Image

I also love words, and the real magic for me, the really deep need for pens, is rooted in the way that pens and words interact. English is a language uniquely suited to the conceit (not using it _that_ way, but to mean a unique expression). That comes from a general lack of boundaries: want to create your own word or metaphor? Go ahead.

It is also well-suited to layers of meaning, things that mean more than they say. When I combine that sort of complexity with beautiful words from a pen, I'm pretty much in my personal heaven.

So I've gone all the way from very primitive needs that my pens satisfy (e.g., sanity, mental health, my ability to walk the earth without wanting to lay waste to the heathens, etc.), to transcendent needs that are equally well-served by pens (art (I draw), poetry, fiction, notes to loved ones, journaling). :-)

Perhaps a haiku would do a better, and certainly shorter, job of it:

Bamboo leans with wind,
compelled by a need to sing;
I am the pen's wind.
Ron Wodaski


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#6 JonSzanto

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 08:59

Ron, that was a beautiful reply.
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#7 DanF

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 09:44

Well, a lot of Buddhist monks would say that a life with no possessions can be pretty good. :) The more things you own, the more you have to worry about.

They would also say that it isn't a bad thing to have more than one nice pen, so long as you wouldn't care if you broke, lost, or gave them away tomorrow.

The great Indian sage Sri Ramana Maharshi used to say that an object of desire itself doesn't actually bring joy, what we mistake for joy is merely the cessation of agitation created by our wanting. It's pretty clear that the relief doesn't last very long, until the next want sets in and renews the cycle.

One thing i know for sure is that websites such as this one create a lot of wanting, for me in particular wanting a Nakaya. But would having that Nakaya really make me any happier in the long term? Probably not, and if I lost it or broke it I'd be miserable for a a while, but ultimately the loss would be as temporary as the gain.

Another thing I know for sure is that if I had a choice between a fabulous fountain pen collection and enlightenment, I would choose the latter. Posted Image In the absence of such a deal, I would gladly accept the pen collection as a consolation prize.

What would my life look like if I had only what I truly needed? Would I be satisfied? Probably not now, but that is my goal, to have satisfaction independent of material things.

About progress, taking the long view, If the cost of progress is pollution and global warming, then how great a thing is progress really? In the end, progress will be our undoing as a species, or at least hasten it a good deal. This Earth right now can provide for the entire population's needs, but not it's wants.

Dan

Edited by DanF, 03 January 2013 - 10:25.

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#8 Edwaroth

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 09:47

Ron...Well said, written and done!

Edited by Edwaroth, 03 January 2013 - 09:53.


#9 HDoug

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 10:29

I like questioning why we are into whatever it is we are into. The questions are invitations to gain some kind of insight into ourselves. And "want" and "need" arenʻt all that clearly demarcated either. I can pretty accurately say I need coffee in the morning but it's not like my heart will stop if I donʻt have a cup.

I really like following the people who need every single variation of Lamy Safari ʻcuz I love their rainbow color photos. The idea of a "complete set" seems to drive many, and although I donʻt have a complete set of anything, I somehow understand what thatʻs about and like following along. It's like baseball cards or something I guess, but more interesting (to me).

Saying you need coffee in the morning would be understood by many but saying you need a terracotta Lamy Safari and are willing to pay a multiple of its original price (for a used one) might be regarded with suspicion or incomprehension by most of the people we associate with every day. But itʻs good to question ourselves about our needs and desires.

And it's good to share your answers. Go ahead, youʻre among friends here.

Doug

Edited by HDoug, 03 January 2013 - 10:31.


#10 Chrissy

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 10:32

Need is a word long since dropped in our household.
It was replaced many years ago by, "I want must have." after I challenged my wife on the need for yet another handbag.
I no longer question her and she actually encourages me if I think about buying a new pen.

Dick D

That's probably because she is aware that if you buy a new pen she will be able to buy a new handbag.... :eureka:

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#11 Koyote

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 13:09

In economics, we don't even use the terms "need" and "want," since it is impossible to distinguish between them. People simply have demands or desires.

#12 yolrgrand

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 13:40

Food and love

#13 myn

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 13:50

If I take my "needs" to mean those very basic necessities of life; shelter, food, clothing, then my needs are met. The moment I go beyond that, I am into wants. Can I be content with only my needs met . . . yes I can. Does that mean I do not want - absolutely not. I truly do delight in the simple things of life though, like a sunrise, a birdsong, the wind soughing through trees and so on.

If others were to look at my life they would probably say "how boring," but when my eyes open each morning, I'd say that makes it an exciting day. I've been in a position in my life, more then once, where I've lost all my "possessions," (wants) and what I came to realize was that's okay, they are only "things."

Does it make me sad because I lost "my" things? Not anymore, because I realize that the value isn't in the things themselves but in the joy they gave me at the time. That, I will always have with me.

For now I have some wonderful fountain pens. I certainly intend to keep them but if life should have a surprise in store for me, then I will have known the joy and delight of those pens and trust that not too far down the road, I would once again have a pen or three or ten or . . . :rolleyes:

edit spelling error

Edited by myn, 03 January 2013 - 13:58.

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#14 Namo

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 14:09

Need is defined by survival. Other than that, it's a compultion (here, pen compultion). Hear me well: this is not a moral statment, but rather a facual one. Need is not that much a subjective matter.

You talk about desire as a necessity of human life: of course it is. But to say it's necessary to progress and motivation is rather dubious, or at least a cultural bias. "Progress" would have to be defined (wouldn't moral progress try to put a lilit to desire, as both stoïcian and epicurian morals says?), and it's a notion that comes rather late in human history as a positive one.

This being said, there is nothing wrong with desire, as long as you know that these desire are yours and don't make you miserable.

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#15 dickydotcom

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 14:19


Need is a word long since dropped in our household.
It was replaced many years ago by, "I want must have." after I challenged my wife on the need for yet another handbag.
I no longer question her and she actually encourages me if I think about buying a new pen.

Dick D

That's probably because she is aware that if you buy a new pen she will be able to buy a new handbag.... :eureka:

Not necessarily. Sometimes it's shoes or a belt.

Dick D

#16 WOBentley

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 14:32

They would also say that it isn't a bad thing to have more than one nice pen, so long as you wouldn't care if you broke, lost, or gave them away tomorrow.


...I realize that the value isn't in the things themselves but in the joy they gave me at the time. That, I will always have with me.

I really couldn't put it better than this. While I am not quite ready to "give them away" I could be happy without them, and will always have the memories of the enjoyment they have brought.
My interest in pens stemmed from the elegant mechanical simplicity of the device itself and has grown to include the beauty inherent in both the forms and the result of the function. For me that represents significant personal "progress".
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#17 dcpritch

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 14:46

These are great thoughts on a topic worth thinking about. I'm driving my son to the airport later today for his return to college and am eager to discuss with him the things written here.
How small of all that human hearts endure,
That part which laws or kings can cause or cure.

— Samuel Johnson

#18 Eyedoc

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 14:47

This topic really made me think, and the more expansive and complicated my thoughts got, the further away from the question I seemed to be. Then, something drifted up in my mind that took me right back to the start. The start of my married life. "All you need is love" by the Beatles was the last song we played at our wedding. The same has been said in many different ways by many different people, but the essence remains unchanged. Twelve years and three beautiful children later, I really haven't found any greater truth in life.
We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give - Winston Churchill

#19 Paddler

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 14:53

There are some things that you "need" to do that are not necessarily connected to your physical well being. Most people's needs are different in this respect. Some have to ride horses; some must write; some have to play musical instruments; and some must collect pens. You deny yourself these things at your own peril. Literally.
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#20 inkstainedruth

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 14:53

Need is defined by survival. Other than that, it's a compultion (here, pen compultion). Hear me well: this is not a moral statment, but rather a facual one. Need is not that much a subjective matter.


There's an old song (I think done by Judy Collins) that describes this perfectly. Don't remember the name of the song but there's a line that says "Give us bread, but give us roses too".
I think that's what I was trying to articulate last night on the other thread. It's maybe a compulsion, but there is (at least for me, and probably a lot of other people here) this yearning for *more* than just the "necessities" -- and I don't mean in terms of material possessions (the Pokemon-like "gotta get'em all" mindset of a true collector). It's this desire for beauty and creativity and intellectual stimulus. And yes, I would call those "needs" the same way food and sleep are "needs". I think that it's part of the human psyche.
You can write with a ballpoint if you have to write something down. Or you can write it with a fountain pen, in a luxuriously colored ink and experience the joy of making pretty marks on paper. Even if it's just doing the Sunday crossword.
After all -- the cave paintings in Lascoux (sp?) in France could have been stick figures of bison and had the same inherent effect (whether totemic items or merely a record of "this is what we bagged today"). But they're not, are they....
Ruth Morrisson aka inkstainedruth

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#21 Koyote

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 15:08

Need is defined by survival. Other than that, it's a compultion (here, pen compultion). Hear me well: this is not a moral statment, but rather a facual one. Need is not that much a subjective matter.

You talk about desire as a necessity of human life: of course it is. But to say it's necessary to progress and motivation is rather dubious, or at least a cultural bias. "Progress" would have to be defined (wouldn't moral progress try to put a lilit to desire, as both stoïcian and epicurian morals says?), and it's a notion that comes rather late in human history as a positive one.

This being said, there is nothing wrong with desire, as long as you know that these desire are yours and don't make you miserable.


If you are asserting this as a fact, perhaps you should provide a proof and/or evidence?

Edited by Koyote, 03 January 2013 - 15:08.


#22 Beechwood

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 15:31

.

Edited by Beechwood, 03 January 2013 - 17:46.

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#23 humblescribbler

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 15:31

It's like baseball cards or something I guess, but more interesting (to me).

Doug


"Got it, got it, got it, want it, got it, got it, got it, want it, want it, need it, need it, need it, got it, got it, need it, need it, need it, got it, got it, got it."

Thanks for the memory hit! :lol:

#24 eric47

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 15:40

In economics, we don't even use the terms "need" and "want," since it is impossible to distinguish between them.

And perhaps that's a reason why economics sometimes gives flawed results with such issues?

People simply have demands or desires.

In real life or in a particular theory.

Like many distinctions (that aren't say mathematical or logical), need v. want is messy one. But is it really "impossible to distinguish them"? Or is it a matter of it's being difficult to distinguish and define them in a clear cut way (no gray areas) that aligns with a theory at stake, our pre-theoretical notions of where things should fall, etc. That a distinction is difficult to cut cleanly doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Important distinctions rarely cut cleanly. While I'm not familiar with the economic demands v. desires distinction, I suspect it doesn't cut cleanly either even if constructed, contrived, or intended as simplifying one.

I don't have any difficulty in considering say water as a (shared/common) need for human beings; for without it we would die. Weird to call it a "demand" in the everyday sense of the term. Owning a Ferrari to drive 2 blocks to work prima facie isn't a need for most people and is probably a want or desire. But I imagine contexts can be found where it might very well be a need, although still not a need, a sine qua non, on a par with say water. Existence of gray areas in between doesn't negate that a distinction is there.

Aside from say some basic common needs, e.g. water, (primary needs perhaps one might say) I don't have a problem with needs varying from individual to individual. A carpenter for may very well need high quality tools. Whereas for me such things may be only something I want; for I use tools occasionally and not for a living. These these non-primary needs' -- insofar as we call them needs -- status as needs may not through time.
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#25 Koyote

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 15:57

You mention water, others may mention hunger, and those are sensations. The manner in which those sensations are satisfied is a matter of demand/desire/want. The point is this: the terms "need" and "want" (or more to the point, the concepts, or the feelings of needing/wanting) are subjective. Different people will attempt to satisfy those sensations in different ways.

To approach a different facet of this issue: There is ample evidence demonstrating that, in affluent societies (and by virtue of regularly being on the internet, most of us are in those societies) there is very little relationship between higher incomes and consumption, on the one hand, and higher happiness on the other hand. This is because, for the vast majority in these societies, those things that most people consider "needs" are securely satisfied: we all have enough food, water, shelter. So, to try to distinguish between needs and wants is pointless, as most of us are merely trying to figure out what to do with our vast riches. This is how we end up on a hedonic treadmill, constantly feeling (what we perceive as) "needs" for things that, a mere generation ago, didn't even exist in the imagination. The culture - in no small measure, aided by marketers -- creates these "needs" in order to keep the economic machine running and the profits flowing. So, rather than working 15 hour weeks (which would today allow us to have as much material stuff as typical Americans had in the 1950s, when they reported their highest happiness levels), we are compelled to work as much or more than our parents did back then in order to buy more stuff which does not, to much measurable degree, create any more happiness.

And make no mistake: compared to the vast majority of the people who have walked this planet, we are incredibly affluent. To talk about rich westerners as if they have unmet "needs" is an insult to the billions on our planet who live in true poverty, and is an insult to the memories of our ancestors who did actually have to struggle for survival.

Edited by Koyote, 03 January 2013 - 16:03.


#26 Lloyd

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 15:58

We all need distractions. Our non-necessary wants are for things to distract ourselves. If pens were abolished, most here would become infatuated with another pseudo-necessary distraction.
"Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination."
Oscar Wilde

#27 equill

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 16:10

"Need" is the first half of a split clause, as I see it. The other half is "...in order to..."
(Linguists may lambaste my misusage of terminology at will; I'll be happy to be set straight on the correct phrasing)

I need oxygen in order to continue living.
I need a pen in order to articulate my thoughts in writing.
I need an elegantly-designed pen, great paper and the perfect ink in order to really do it in style.

...suddenly, it's the goals that get ranked according to importance, instead of their means. In my profession, this is referred to as "moving the lump," but sometimes it's a useful approach nonetheless, because it gets the lump to where it really belongs.

#28 Laura N

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 16:17

Well, for me it's not theoretical -- though I love these discussions -- but practical.

I am in a different stage than most, I know. We have three kids from 12 to 17. As parents, one of the things you find yourself teaching your children is restraint. From the time they are born, you have to teach them not to do certain things -- for example, don't stick baby fingers in an electrical socket. As they age, there is also material restraint. Some kids seem to want everything, or see their friends getting everything, and as a parent you just find yourself dealing with these issues. At least, my husband and I do. And for us, we are now entering a stage of heavy child-rearing expenditure that enforces material restraint. You start to think about paying as much as $250,000 per kid for college, in addition to everything else, and it's staggering.

So, purely as a day-to-day practical matter, when I think about "need," it's a whole category other than the wonderful things that I want and that enhance my life. I don't expect anyone else to share that point of view, though.

And my distinction between need and want doesn't mean I don't spent on wants. I love to have fun, and I appreciate nice things, and I overindulge in both. But I think of them as splurges, I guess. I enjoy every bit of life, especially things that are just fun, or just beautiful. In writing about this now, I wonder if it's possible that I enjoy these things even more because they aren't "needs" to me, but special gifts?

In any case, we all have different ways of looking at things, and I love that. Coming into contact with others' different perspectives has enriched my life immensely.

#29 Namo

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 16:46


Need is defined by survival. Other than that, it's a compultion (here, pen compultion). Hear me well: this is not a moral statment, but rather a facual one. Need is not that much a subjective matter.

You talk about desire as a necessity of human life: of course it is. But to say it's necessary to progress and motivation is rather dubious, or at least a cultural bias. "Progress" would have to be defined (wouldn't moral progress try to put a lilit to desire, as both stoïcian and epicurian morals says?), and it's a notion that comes rather late in human history as a positive one.

This being said, there is nothing wrong with desire, as long as you know that these desire are yours and don't make you miserable.


If you are asserting this as a fact, perhaps you should provide a proof and/or evidence?


If your are refering to the progress thing, well, if you look at the XVIIth centry in England, jus before the so called Glorious revoulution, the fact that James the 1st claimed all political powers (around 1610 if my memory serves me well) was perceived as a dangerous innovation. What was valued was resect for traditions (in this case, power was mutiple, with traditionnal and local powers and not onyl one centralized power). What was "new" was suspect. The same thing can be say for art: it's only when Baudelaire theorized "modernity" that the New was conceived as something noteworthy, interessting, valued.

I don't know if this is proof, but in the history of ideas (and values are but ideas), this point is very well etablished.

Hope I answered your question.

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#30 bphollin

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 16:54

I appreciate the discussion in this thread very much, but I have trouble framing it within the contexts of "need" and "want." For me, it is more a question of "like." I think we all recognize that owning fountain pens and participating in a fountain pen forum is something of a luxury. I make a living by writing, researching, teaching, and grading. A fountain pen is an excellent tool for that and it brings me great satisfaction whilst doing my job. It is by no means required, though.

Since Doug mentioned Lamy Safari collectors, I felt that I could contribute in that regard. I like the Lamy Safari/Vista/AL-Star/Joy pens very much. I like the way they write (and the ones that don't are easily tuned up), I like the way they fit in my hand, I like the way they hold up in my briefcase bag, and I like the price point. My first "real" fountain pen was a Lamy Al-Star, and while I didn't love everything about it, I liked it enough to buy a Safari, and I liked that enough to buy a few more. When I sold a few off because I thought I had too many, I felt regret. I've built my collection over a few years, and I really like it. I like the way it looks, I like taking pictures of it, and I like sharing my experiences with other enthusiasts.

I do not feel a Pokeman or Beanie Baby compulsion to catch 'em all. I do not feel overwhelmed without my Lamys, nor do I feel anxiety that I don't own them all. For example, I am missing a Terracotta (see below!) and a few other known production pens and one-offs. I would like to own them to complete my collection, but not at any cost. In the last few months, I've seen another early model Safari sell on eBay for $300+ and then $500+ dollars. Obviously someone needed, wanted, or liked it enough to pick it up at those prices. That's a lot of money for me for one pen, and as much as I liked it, I didn't like it that much. I don't lose sleep knowing I don't have a full set. I may never track some of them down, and that's fine too. Truth be told, I'd rather pick up a few here and a few there over the course of a number of years than buy them all at once. I like the hunt, too.

In addition to liking the pens, I also like contributing to a community. I thought I had something to say about the Lamy 2000 family that hadn't been said before, so I wrote a lot about it last summer. It was a great satisfaction for me to do the job of information gathering, writing, editing, taking pictures and videos, formatting, posting the article, and reading feedback. It was met with a good reception here and elsewhere in the pen-o-sphere. I am working on some follow-up sections, too. I go along with the jokes when people point and laugh at the Lamy guy. Replace that with MB Writers, "51"s, Esterbrooks, or what-have-you. So long as it is healthy, I don't see the harm. I can't afford to collect the MB Writers (as much as I'd like to own some), but I really felt a great satisfaction when goodguy posted his complete series review some years ago. I love seeing christof's photography, Bill's great Targa collection, Jar's trays of varied beauties, or Ether'x's latest Nakaya.

For me, this is a hobby of enjoyment. I also post on a wet shaving community, and it strikes me as odd that some guys own twenty different kinds of soaps and a shelf full of shaving brushes. I just like shaving and want a few good tools to do it. I wonder what they would say about my ink stash and pile of pens... I own a few modest but nice watches, and can't quite fathom guys with tens of thousands of dollars in watches. In the end, I think it comes down to people liking what they like.

I like Lamys and I like reading about what other people like, too.

Edited by bphollin, 03 January 2013 - 17:03.