Things Are Sometimes Better Than Experiences

It has been common practice to say that, in this new digitized and customized world, the smart people are choosing experiences over things. And, certainly, the adage that we should love people and use things—rather than the inverse—remains true. But I have to push back that there isn’t value in things.

Last week, a Leonardo da Vinci painting sold for $450 million, quadruple its last sale amount. But the money is metaphor. When almost everything tangible can be scanned three dimensionally, and we are close to the arrival of a time when we can experience the visible almost identically in a virtual realm as we can in the actual realm, certain tangible things will inherently become more valuable.

I have a bronze sculpture—“Librarian at the Beach”—that sits on my coffee table. This was a birthday present from my father, who created it. There used to be just one of these sculptures—on display on a pedestal in his home—but a friend of his wanted to buy it for his wife, and my father decided to cast replicas, perhaps diminishing the original’s value, but providing daily appreciation for excellent work to people outside his own home. I don’t often touch the bronze sculpture, but I know its weight and relationship to the negative space around it, I experience its three-dimensionality with more than eyesight but with knowledge and experience. I think this is the best piece my father has ever made, and I am grateful that I can experience it every day. Remembering it is not the same. And it is not an experience without the thing first.

I can type very fast. But I also worked hard at a young age to make my handwriting legible. It took a long time, but I developed a signature style of writing that I could call my own. Still, I appreciate my quick typing, which also required purposeful and focused work. Naturally, I decided to make a font of my handwriting so that I could type fast in my handwriting. That font has sat on every PC I have owned for close to two decades. And I can’t remember using it more than a few times. I wrote a note to my kids last week about the Da Vinci sale and the value of tangible things; if I had typed up the note and emailed it to them, I am sure it would have lost its value to them.

Today is Thanksgiving and I have loved using the Kitchen Aid mixer that we registered for almost 20 years ago. I mixed homemade whipped cream and spooned it into the orange ceramic Reese’s bowl we got at Hershey Park back when the boys toddled. I smile every time I see that bowl. Don’t get me wrong; our car trunks are stuffed with things to donate. But I aim to be a purposeful hoarder. I believe in hoarding fulfilling moments and I believe in curating objects, holding onto the tangible things that either have ongoing utility and/or inspire wonder and appreciation.

I hope you all have a wonderfully tactile Thanksgiving!