When Less is More

Tempus Fugit. Time flies especially if you’re having fun.

It’s practically been 7 years since I’ve been bitten by the analog bug. Thanks to a group of friendly analog enthusiasts whom I met by way of Analog 101 and Wired State.  I can still remember how magical the whole experience was of listening to the vinyl versions of iconic classic rock albums that accompanied my growing up years – from U2’s Joshua Tree to Jackson Browne’s Lives in the Balance, from Yes’s 90125 to the Eagles’ Hotel California, from Suzanne Vega’s Solitude Standing to the Best of Carly Simon. It was the proverbial superb sound as well as the larger than life album art of analog recordings that possessed and compelled   me to convert my sizable CD library into its analog counterpart. So you can imagine how alien the thought of slowing down and taking things easy was to a vinyl convert like myself 7 years ago.  That was the key message I took home with me from listening to a mild-mannered gentleman whose avatar name in Wired State was Pican. Pete Pican, I think, was his full name. He had an easy air about him and he could have easily been my long lost favorite uncle judging by the way he held court as he dispensed hard-earned lessons in record collecting.  At the time that I met him, he had thousands of analog recordings in his library compared to my collection of over a dozen albums I bought mostly from Bebop Records at the Makati Square.  I remember him pointing out how this hobby could prove to be a  hard habit to break  as it promises countless hours of bliss from stumbling  onto your hard to find album to sitting down and listening from that sweet spot in your listening room. Better this than having a mistress, he would explain to his wife.  Better this than disappearing into the night and burning money in night clubs. Better this than gambling. At least, your wife knows where you are.

Having said this, he also  shares how he has come to a point in his record collecting where he would rather listen to a handful of records instead of continually amassing more and more. In the end, he says, even if you only have 365 records which he did not at that time, you won’t even be able to listen to all of them even if you target to play one album back to back per day. In fact, that is not what usually happens. What usually happens is that you have a handful of favorite albums which comparatively enjoy more playing time compared to the rest of your collection.  This, of course, is not a new principle. Pareto Principle is how we refer to the 20% that produces the 80% of your analog bliss. It’s the same as how we use the shirts and pants that pack our closets.  And that is why he says at that time that it makes perfect sense to give away or if you will, endorse the rest of his albums to those whom he knows would take care of them either by selling them or even better, by giving them away.  You won’t be able to take them away with you anyway.  A couple of months after that, we were saddened to learn of his passing.

My record collection is nearing the one thousand mark and I must say that now more than ever, his wise reminder resonates strongly with me today. Which is why I have been experiencing my own version of diminishing returns. The drive to be a completist of artist discographies has lost its appeal to me. Rather than collect all of Robert Palmer’s albums, I’d much rather have Addictions Vol 1 in my collection. In lieu of searching for all of Steve Winwood’s studio albums, I’d be happier with his Chronicles compilation.

To be sure, Pican’s wise insight is reminiscent of variations of the same message delivered to me by well-meaning messengers  in the course of my life.

There is the New Testament, of course, where no less than Jesus Christ himself admonishes us that “what does it profit a man, if he gains the whole world but loses his soul in the end.” There is the financial management seminar I once attended where I learned that the healthiest and most productive attitude we should aspire to develop towards money is not the resolve for more  but rather the vocation to be stewards of God’s talents so that we may be able to bless others with it.  And then there is Gabriel Marcel’s Being and Having in which the great existentialist philosopher talks about the tragedy of reducing being to having when having is simply an aspect of being. To be is not reducible to have.

Indeed, we are all just passing through. Naked we came into this world. Naked we shall leave this earth. What matters most is how we lived rather than how we accumulated. It’s a great thought to reflect on as we start the new year.