(I've told the first story before. Apologies for repeating myself.)
Case 1: Tony G., a master mechanic, owns a gas station in a prosperous Wisconsin suburb. Zoning no longer permits gas stations but he's "grandfathered in." It's a very lucrative business. (According to rumor, Tony eventually retired on an impressively large yacht in balmier climes.)
Tony spent three years restoring and rebuilding a beautiful old British sports car at his garage. Since it was a labor of love, he lavished time, patience, and craftsmanship on the car. The resulting automobile is better than new, perfect even in out-of-sight details, concours-ready.
A year after the project is finished Tony has it out for one of his infrequent drives. He's motoring down a residential road feeling...not unhappy, but listless, distracted, unfulfilled. Distinctly not enjoying himself as much as he thinks he should be. Up ahead of him, a truck kicks up a small stone. It hits the windshield, and with a loud TOCK! a small pockmark appears in the glass.
Instantly, Tony's mood brightens. Oh, good, he thinks, I get to replace the windshield!
Soon after, the restored car is put up for sale.
Tony has realized that he likes restoration work better than he likes owning and driving a fully restored antique, and that finishing his masterpiece was not the beginning, but the end. He's bought a new project car, another British roadster in very rough shape and in serious need of his expert ministrations.
Case 2: Bob S., a small business owner with a fastidious streak. As his company has grown he's gotten richer and simultaneously less busy, because the company can now afford employees to whom he can delegate some of the work that consumed all his waking hours in his younger years. A child of the rock era, for three years he has devoted nights and weekends to building the perfect stereo system. He wants the best, at which point he intends to forget about it.
He compulsively reads reviews, haunts dealers, tries, buys, sells, and refines. Each step is a journey; it's not just the "right" components, it's how they interact.
Finally he's gotten to the point that he's satisfied. He has the perfect amp, the perfect preamp, the ideal speakers. He's spent thousands on wires. His listening room is festooned with strategically placed pads and acoustic foam. Everything is in balance. Everything works together. And he loves it. It sounds just the way he thinks music should sound.
Bob feels "happy" that he's "all done," but at the same time vaguely discontented. As he listens to music, he fidgets, sometimes thinking, is this all?
A year passes, and Bob reads a rave review of a new amp...and feels an urgent need to know how it sounds...and can't help buying one and inserting it in his system even though it throws his entire system out of whack and ruins all his previous careful auditioning, system-building, and shopping.
Several years later, only a few details of his original system remain. Shopping has permanently recommenced, and components migrate in and out of the house. And yet often, Bob pines for his original, "perfect" system, thinking why in the world did I ever get rid of that?
Case 3: K is a photographer....
Illustration: System owner unknown. Nothing to do with Bob S. The speakers are Genesis Advanced Technologies 2.2's, at US$99,000 only the second most expensive speakers in the Genesis line. Photo nabbed from a forum thread, provided by Gary L. Koh, Genesis CEO.
Original contents copyright 2012 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
A book of interest today:
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Craig: "Right, and the details of case 3 need not be described because we all know what K is doing. One thing that can be said, though, is that unless K is a huge Leica fan, he is probably spending a lot less in his relentless pursuit of the Perfect Camera than Bob or Tony in their respective obsessions. In a way this sort of stuff strikes me as stupid and wasteful, but on the other hand, it could be argued that keeping the money in circulation is better than just hoarding it. Tony, at least, finally came to the conclusion that his real joy was in restoring cars rather than just having them, so I'd say his pursuit of his obsession has led him to a greater degree of self-understanding, and his restoration work means that some nice old cars will once again be usable rather than just ending up in junkyards."
Andy: "I find it fascinating the way in which the desire to create manifests itself, whether it be creating an ideal sound system, or creating the sounds to play through others' systems. I guess in a way writers have it lucky, in that they don't need to buy expensive things in order to create. Ideally, neither would photographers, but we all know what happens there ;-) "
Mike replies: But writers need readers, and the search for an audience can be exhausting too....
Andrew Molitor: "Something I tend to lose sight of is that there is nothing wrong with doing this. I tend to yell at friends to stop buying new gear, and just go make some great photographs with what you have. This is kind of missing the point, and I try to rein myself in when I feel the urge to do this. With the emphasis on 'try' unfortunately. Some people genuinely take pleasure in the gear, some people take pleasure in the results, and some people enjoy both. Horses for courses, and we should all just try to get along!"
Rob: "I can't remember where I read it, or who even said it, but the phrase: 'Never ask a camera collector to show you his photographs' springs to mind more often than it should when browsing photography forums...."
David Dyer-Bennet: "I know one science fiction magazine collector who, shortly after completing his run of 'Amazing Stories' (I think, but anyway, one of the classic magazines) sold it and started over, because he figured out that it was the thrill of the chase that he really enjoyed. You probably even make a profit that way; a complete set sells for a premium to people who really know what they're getting, whereas he was finding individual issues in obscure little stores at low prices."
Robert Goldstein: "Both cases are examples of obsession, one healthy and the other unhealthy. In Case 1, the individual comes to the realization that he gains pleasure and fulfillment by a creative process and not by possession of material objects. In Case 2, the individual thinks that he will be made happy by possessing something rare and perfect, only to discover that he is not. Nevertheless, he continues his neverending quest for perfection. The analogies to how photographers relate to their craft and their gear could not be clearer. Case 2 is also an example of another truth: Perfect is the enemy of good."