Publicado el Ana Cristina Vélez

The love for the objects

The following story, which is real, explains what love for objects is all about. I’m telling it, because maybe some readers will identify with it.

I have a niece whose cell phone was damaged a few months ago. For her, objects are «animated», as if they had a personality, a soul. Among all her objects, the cell phone is the most important belonging to her; she takes care of it as if it were a child. Well, she went to an Apple store to have it fixed, and the technicians told her that the damage was from the factory, that they were changing her cell phone for a new one. She did not accept the offer, because she felt it as if they had proposed that, instead of curing her cat, they would exchange it for another identical one. She waited for her dad to discuss the problem. He, with his usual cunning, told her that if they transferred all the information from her phone to the new one, it was as if one’s brain was transplanted into a new body, almost identical to one’s own, but healthy. So, Speaking of all this, of the love for objects, my niece told me that what she felt was so strong, that she always carried two elastic bands on her wrists to hold her hair, so that the elastic bands would never feel alone.

I have observed, especially in men, that kind of love, but for cars. I even know that some give them names: an adorable gentleman I met had two Volkswagen Beetles; one he called Benitin, and the other Aeneas. He spent a good part of the weekend «cleaning» them gently with a kerchief.

When a friend dies, we tend to carefully and affectionately keep the objects that were his and that, luckily, we inherited. It is as if those objects were not what they are: objects. We would not change the ring that our aunt left us for another one just like it, but newer. No, what we want is the one that was in her musical hands all her life.

If there are auctions of clothing and accessories used by the artists and characters in history, it is because we have that indelible and irrational superstition that «something» of the person who owned it remained in the object, and there are even those who are convinced that that they “have their energy”. It is very probable that, if after someone have given us a jacket that person tell us that it belonged to a serial killer, we will never use it; even more, we don’t even want to touch it. This «essentialism» means that the value of works of art varies depending on their authenticity (if it was painted by Leonardo) and the  owners of the panting. A longer history of important owners, more value of the piece of art.

Psychologists and economists say that there is a phenomenon called the «endowment effect» related to these stories and feelings. The endowment effect causes us to value an object as soon as we believe it is ours; They say that we don’t even have to have it physically, that if, for example, we bid for it at auction, it’s enough for us to feel belonging and value it more. This is why almost everyone believes that their belongings are worth more than what other people are willing to pay for them.

Loss aversion is a well-known phenomenon, and it looks like this. We prefer not to gain something, even a little better than what we have, if we have to lose something that is already ours to do so. Having to sell something for a lower price than we think is fair feels like an emotional loss, and it hurts.

Being rational implies overcoming, dominating, and ceasing to feel an excessive attachment to our objects. Many times that love is a hindering emotion that prevents us from doing good business and gaining freedom. The object has nothing essential that makes it different beyond the history that exists exclusively in our mind. Because we are essentialists, because we put souls into objects, religion can perform its miracles, such as the transfiguration of matter into spirit, and vice versa.

If we were rational, it would be impossible to convince ourselves that the body and blood of Christ are in the host, and no one would carry a good luck charm or keep the endless other nonsensical things that, to a greater or lesser extent, we all keep.

This commercial advertisement catch the point very well