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Keeping It In The Box

Learning how to savor things and experiences.

Robert Rackley
Robert Rackley
3 min read
Some G.I. Joe action figures in their vehicle.
Image source: Rodimuspower on flickr

When I was a kid, I spent a good amount of time with a cousin of the same age. Throughout our elementary school years, he and I shared a deep and abiding love for all things G.I. Joe. We hunted down the elusive Snake Eyes figure together. We turned our grandparent's spare room into a miniature theater of play warfare. I remember meeting him one time and he had setup a whole battle scene in my grandfather's caddy while on the way to pick me up. He and I discussed comic book intrigue and far-fetched military plots. There was one difference in our collecting, though. His parents bought him every G.I. Joe toy that he wanted. He had almost every action figure, vehicle and play set that rolled off the production line.

Despite the largesse of my cousin's collection (or perhaps because of it), he was fastidious about the condition of his toys. I distinctly remember getting to his house and wanting to use his new Major Bludd figure in our play, but he refused to take the plastic mercenary from his box. The 3.5" G.I. Joe figures were mostly well designed, but they didn't hold up well with excessive play. Their joints succumbed to wear and their arms and legs became floppy, like they had a connective tissue/screw disorder. Sometimes, the hook that connected to the rubber band, which held their upper and lower torso together, busted through their crotch. The missing plastic codpiece gave them a look that was most pitiable among Hasbro manufactured men. My cousin understood well the ravages of time and use on an action figure and would rather look at his pristine toy soldier than risk the soldier's health and manhood in the play wars that raged.

Rationing your music


I've been thinking about all of this recently as I decide how to listen to music. I've been squirreling away some of my favorite tunes, including the new Ronnie Martin album, From The Womb Of The Morning The Dew Of Youth Will Be Yours. I don't want to "wear out" my favorite songs from too many listens. It's more than just the degradation of the polyvinyl chloride that the record is made from. It's also the diminishing level of pleasure that comes with repeated spins. I want to retain the feeling of intentionality and the enjoyment of discerning that comes with savoring the music. This feeling seems to be mostly confined to music that I have on vinyl, as there is a layer of friction in taking the record off the shelf, extracting it from its many layers of protection and putting the needle down on the spinning platter. Digital music is just too easy to play, skip past and move on. Its retention seems more ephemeral, no matter how good the music is.

Of course, I still listen to albums like Dinosaur Jr.'s You're Living All Over Me quite frequently, despite the fact that I own copies on CD, cassette, 2 different colors of vinyl and digital and have been listening to it since 1992. As I grow older, though, the music that holds my fascination for years like the tunes from my youth is harder to find (even though I love a lot of it for short periods of time - 2022 has been great so far).  

I will play my Now Sounds playlist over and over again without worrying about diminishing returns. I constantly refresh it with new music and that keeps the dopamine hits coming. It's a different model than what I employ with the work I truly treasure. In fact, I find myself avoiding putting new songs from albums that I really adore as a whole on playlists, so I won't get tired of individual tracks and ruin the enjoyment of the album in total.

Doling it out


Does anyone else ration things that they enjoy? Do you ever find yourself saving "the good stuff" for the right occasions, just to avoid making it commonplace? It can be a movie, a soundtrack, a meal, a desert or even a special book. What do you only dole out to yourself every so often to retain its specialness?

Robert Rackley

Robert is a Christian, software dev manager, aspiring minimalist and paper airplane mechanic located in North Carolina.


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