Loving Stuff

12


hugging car.JPGI have a confession to make: I love my car.

It’s not a particularly snazzy or pretty car, mind you. It’s a Honda Fit—a vehicle slightly bigger than a skateboard that requires me to switch out the gerbils every other month or so. But since I’m not particularly snazzy or pretty myself, we seem pretty compatible. I spend more time with my car than 95% of my Facebook friends, and just seeing my Fit light up when I approach (and press the key fob) makes me kinda happy. “Isn’t that sweet,” I think to myself. “It’s waiting for me.”

Not that it had a choice. Honda Fits do not have the capacity to clankily whisper under their breath, “I’m outta here” and drive themselves to the nearest all-night antifreeze joint. I understand this. But still, my car and I have been through a lot—rough roads, snowstorms and even one reasonably frightening accident—and there’s a sliver of my mind that thinks of my Fit as part of my family. Even typing this sentence, I wonder if I should really give it a name. Maybe Fillmore.

I’m not alone. Many of us develop attachment to things around us that can’t ever love us (or even like us) back. And some people, according to research out of Arizona State University, actually seem to fall in love with their stuff.

Researchers found that these folks can lavish time and attention on their gadgets and material possessions. Gun owners, they say, spend six times more money on their guns than they did buying gifts for the actual people in their lives. Computer owners spend about twice as much. A car owner the researcher talked with described seeing his car in terms of “love at first sight.” Another knew when and where the car was manufactured—its birthday and place of birth, in other words—and had memorized its vehicle identification number.

“We went into this just looking at automobiles, but found it was a generalizable phenomenon,” researcher John Lastovicka told Time. “We were surprised to find people lavishing love on bicycles, computers and guns. Also this wasn’t love for a brand—this was simply a love for the specific possession owned by the consumer.”

Now, lots of holes can be poked in this study, of course. Those of us who use computers (read: “all of us,” given the fact you’re reading this post) have a love-hate relationship with them, and we lavish our machines with gifts just so they won’t forward our passwords to Wikileaks.

But it is interesting. I think, perhaps, this is an inherent danger of living in such a materially blessed—and obsessed—society. We’re social creatures who value those whom we spend time with. And as we spend more and more time with our computers and cell phones and guns and cars, we grow close to them.

It’s a weird, discomforting and—for most of us (I hope) not an altogether crippling phenomenon. This isn’t the end of the world, but it is a slightly embarrassing truth. I may love my car, but I do not take it out for anniversary dinners.

That said, next time I wash Fillmore, I may plug in an extra dollar to get the undercarriage wash and special soap. You know, as a special treat.

Who wrote this?

Paul Asay has been writing for Plugged In since 2007 and loves superheroes and finding God in unexpected places. In addition, Paul has also written several books, with his newest—Burning Bush 2.0—recently published by Abingdon Press. When Paul’s not reviewing movies, he hikes with his wife, Wendy, runs marathons with his grown kids, Colin and Emily, and beats back unruly houseplants. Follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  lupinskitten:

Bowties are cool only when a certain Doctor is wearing them.

One of my friends actually has "TARDIS" on her liscence plate. She's continually shocked when people stop her and say, "OH MY GOSH I LOVE DOCTOR WHO!!"

I have always named my cars -- my first one was Latticia, my second one was Galadriel, and my current one is Chloe, after a character on Smallville. I have had many computers with names, but my current one is "Tesla," after the historical figure / character on Sanctuary.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Hithwenur:

Aw, it's a Whovian convention! ^_^*puts on bowtie, because bowties are cool*

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  mjlcme:

The reference to the show is how my husband got me to give up my mini-van and explained why he liked the Fit.  While I wanted a smaller car the Fit seemed too small.  While he isn't a fan he has sat through enough that he could say "The fit is like the Tardis, looks small on the outside but it is huge on the inside.  We could even call it that!"

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  JuliChristine:

I just had to jump in with a comment to laud the name Tardis.  Nice to come across another fan. What a great name. My husband and I are building a sqarish shed in our backyard and we were joking about painting it blue and naming it the Tardis.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  mjlcme:

We named our Fit........Tardis.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Katarina:

Yeah, I was in sixth grade when I came up with that name. My teacher was always telling me to play with a more bell-like sound, so the name Isabella seemed natural:).

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Jedi Master:

This was an interesting article, and explores a subject that my wife and I were just talking about the otehr day. We discussed how we used to assign personalities to our toys or stuffed animlas (much like the Toy Story movies), and how we would imagine that they came to life when we left the room. I think that stays with us when we get older. And I think that it can gradually disappear over time with a combination of lost innocence and gained reason. But no matter how reasoned I may be, I still gave a name to my first brand new blue Honda Civic (Saphira, yes after the dragon in Eragon). And my wife still treats certain things around the house as if it had a life of its own. It can be easier than you would think to start loving things more than others. I am continually praying that God would provide for my family. But I also fear that if we came into a large sum of money, that we would spend it on material things. Nothing can replace relationships of the people who will love you back, not even a shining new blue honda civic. In the end, it's just stuff and will all burn one day. People are eternal, and the relationships we build can last a lifetime.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  TheFuturePredator:

This post intrigued me in many ways. I'd definitely agree with SNJ that naming things and making more 'human' is in our nature. I've noticed I tend to name things I use constantly, have an emotional connection to, or inspire my imagination. I remember being 10 years old and pretending our cars were giant cats which protected our house and can't help but wonder if this isn't somehow linked to the fact my family has always named our cars. Oddly enough, I have named my computer and ipod but have never felt a particular emotional connection or need to "lavish it". Compare this to the fact that, although I've never named my piano, whenever I begin to play, whether on my own or someone else's, I tend to approach it respectfully as if it is alive and allowing to play. The best time I've ever had playing the piano, it felt as if the piano and I were both playing in the quiet. Nevertheless, I've never felt the urge to spend money on a car, computer, or piano beyond what was practical. It would probably be accurate to say that what we name, we spend a lot of time with, and what we actually start to think of as "alive" probably commands a good deal of our passion. (i.e. i spend a lot of time w/ my computer, hence i name it, but it is music/piano which commands my passion hence I often think of it as alive)

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Hithwenur:

Good point, Katarina. I'm not saying that I don't ever cross that line, either--just that if I have, I haven't consciously noticed it lately.

(And just out of curiosity, where DID Isabella's name come from? Just because she souds classy that way?)

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  SNJ:

  I must admit that I have a computer name "Granny", a violin that doesn't have a name but does get a gentle hug whenever it helps me though Bach, and a recorder ( the instrument) that seems to enjoy Celtic music over all other kinds. I believe it is just human nature to try to give inanimate objects personalities, feelings and, at times, even a mind of their own. I think as long as we don't give than bank accounts of their own and as long as we remember that they are just objects we should be safe.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Katarina:

Yeah, I understand what you mean, hithwenur. For example, I have a flute named Isabella (no Twilight reference intended) and I love cleaning her and taking care of her so she makes prettier music. However, I also agree that there is a fine line between taking care of our stuff and obsessing over it. This is just a random thought from my sometimes peculiar brain, but, after reading this blog post, I realized how close I sometimes come to worshipping material things over God.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Comment by  Hithwenur:

Oh, I know plenty of people who name their cars. For that matter, the computer I'm typing on right now has a name. (Ellie, actually.) I think it's just a human quirk that we like to name what we play with--whether that's our computer or our childhood teddy bear.