Fountain Pen Collecting – the psychology of my madness

Fountain Pen Collecting
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Fountain Pen Collecting – what prompts me to behave the way I do?

Fountain pen collecting is, my fellow collectors will agree, a complex topic. Neither do we know the psychology that propels us to go to seemingly irrational lengths, nor can we, in all fairness, describe our behaviour logically most of the time. Yes, passionate we are in our defence, but most of the time, we know in the heart of our hearts, how hollow our arguments are.

Fountain Pen Collecting
The Psychology behind Fountain Pen Collecting

I have talked to many psychologists to understand why I have the kind of super strong desire to acquire and own fountain pens that I have and, the explanations that I have gathered from them are, at the lest, as bewildering as the obsession is.

Some have labelled my hobby an addiction. According to this explanation, the pleasure centre in my brain gets activated every time I acquire a new pen. Naturally, to get that “high”, I keep myself in perpetual motion – and acquiring fountain pens becomes an end in itself. The period of satiation, they say, gets increasingly smaller which prompts me to acquire more to keep myself in the state of demented bliss that I get from fountain pen collecting.

Some psychologists have however explained by behaviour by more evolutionary terms – tracing it back all the way to Carl S Jung and our ancestors when they were hunter gatherers. As the best hunters and gatherers were the ones that passed their DNA’s on, it is natural to surmise that I “gather”, because of that streak is in my blood. My fountain pen collecting ways, are therefore, a mere intellectual manifestation of a primal instinct. Now, that’s ancient.

Fountain Pen Collecting
The Psychology behind Fountain Pen Collecting

On a more profound plane, I have been told that the single-minded devotion with which I go about my fountain pen collecting is actually a desire to defy death, the fear that stems from the deepest recesses of my mind. The whole urge sprouts from a latent yearning to create something that will literally out-live me – that I am just a custodian and my collection is my way of seeking to embrace eternity. 

More down to Earth is the explanation that seems to suggest that this crazy thing (both my wife and mother will vouch) about fountain pen collecting is little me’s desperate attempt to connect with something much larger than I actually am. Something akin to people turning to religion, to cults even. It is my way of connecting, through the objects of my desire – fountain pens, with moments in history, with great events, great people, greatness … that the pens represent. Yes, it explains my yearning for every bit of detail about the pens in my collection, of their histories, of the times they represent and the men (and women) who wielded them.    

Again, according to Russell Belk, living in a consumer culture as we do, we are defined by our possessions. According to this school of thought, my fountain pen collecting is both a subconscious rejection and celebration of consumerism. By collecting fountain pens, I am rejecting the crass consumerism of use-and-throw ball point pens, while I am embracing it by defining myself by the quality and value of my collection.

However, there are also people who explain the inexplicable by stating that it is actually mastery that I am after. That my obsession with fountain pen collecting is actually my way incorporating a semblance of order in the otherwise chaotic environment of which I am merely a part. I have no control over my environment and my “hobby” (if that is the correct term in the context) is actually a form of a rebellion, where I seek to curve out a little niche where I am the Lord and Master. After all, I alone decide what my collection will comprise of, what to add and what to discard.

The Psychology behind Fountain Pen Collecting
Its not just the pen, but everything about it

I have also had people explaining my fountain pen collecting as a mere anxiety buster. They quote Warner   Muensterberger and explain things by drawing parallels with an infant seeking comfort in a security object like a blanket or a doll. Acquiring new fountain pens, they say, provides relief from anxiety – loneliness and uncertainty even. The fountain pens, they say are my teddy bears, lullabies. How quaint. Oh, they also point out that I must continue to collect, to stave off whatever unwelcome feelings that rock my subconscious to force me into collecting. Now, that’s soothing. Point is I just love spending time with my fountain pens and yes, the time spent is totally, clearly, unequivocally, cathartic. Yes, I caress them. Yes, I talk with them. Talk “with”, not “to”, see? And no, it is not penophilia.  

Fountain Pen Collecting Psychology, Chawm Ganguly

There was another who explained my fountain pen collecting, taking me on a trip to my repressed desire for collecting as a child, which may have peaked when I was about ten, and is now finding an outlet. You know, more free time, disposable cash, more control over my life and stuff like that. My pens may also, thus, be my way of fondly looking at my childhood: and collecting them, a way of trying to ride the time machine to re-live it. Interesting.  I myself have a much simpler explanation for my fountain pen collecting though – I just love buying. I suffer from the same bouts that some others feed with calories. Simple. I have the same urges that makes my wife buy shoes and makes me buy fountain pens – and yes, I didn’t need to go to a shrink to figure that out .

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12 Replies to “Fountain Pen Collecting – the psychology of my madness”

  1. Graat article. I suppose all of the mentioned psychological systems work to together to go for that ‘just’ one more

  2. Dada thanks for the clarification I have had unanswered questions for quite sometime in this regard ??

  3. It sums up beautifully. Iys addiction, its complex, its relieving, its invigorating, gives a high, ecstatic calming, soothing, crazy at tines and yes ITS MY HOBBY and I M Luving It.

  4. Dear Chawm,
    What a beautiful article with deep insights into the minds of true collectors when we have many who are Wolves in Sheep skin posing as one with an ulterior motive of earning profits during their lives.
    It was like Desmond Morris who wrote “Body Watching”, “Man watching” & “Animal Watching” which led to findings in human behaviour. You have now become the Desmond Morris of “Pen Collectors Watching” and have found their behaviours.
    From the clinging on to an object teddy bears,(which is close to what Desmond Morris found on “why human beings take up to smoking” – which is because of the insecurity caused in a child when weaned off from the mother’s milk and when you grow up the Cigar gives you that comfort) The ancient hunters and collectors DNA, to a fixation and addiction for these possessions, to an anxiety buster providing the satisfaction, to a religious connotation of worshipping the fountain pen to finally maturing into a self-actualised person, realising that we are mortal and hence we try to live beyond our physical lives through the collections and the thoughts penned down for eternity becoming immortal, and seeking final salvation!
    It is a wonderful philosophical way of summing up the life of a true fountain pen collector who wants to defy death and live beyond through psychology! Kudos to you Chawm, as only your mind can think in this!

    1. Janardhan Sir,

      you have added another dimension to the story by adding about the sheep in wolves clothing … yes, i have written that deliberately. What else can you call these so-called fountain pen lovers who are compromising Saraswati’s enlightenment in search of Lakshmi’s blessings, that too by means most foul!

      Yes, i am fully aware of what you have just hinted at, perhaps your greatness stopping you from calling these sheep / wolves out.

      I had to pen my thoughts down, and am sure, Mr Ganguly will forgive me for trying to shift the attention from another beautifully written piece!

      Best Regards!

  5. Excellent article.

    I strongly believe, that the Fountain Pen love is there just not this birth…I was a pen maker/collector/seller/lover for births…I often get flashes of my pens from yester births..

    I also believe, every pen I own at see or had, was by destiny…so I got ve utmost care and attention. To them..

    I feel connected and a serendipity is every fountain pen occurrence in my life…or for that matter when it connects the dots with people like you, who have turned friends from mere customers..

    My two bits 🙂

  6. Personally, it is a connection to history. History is more than events and dates. It is our family — the family of mankind — story; a story to which we each contribute something few notes.
    The vintage pens I collect are a tangible link to the people and times of ‘our story’. Each pen was held and used for some period of time by unknown persons who lived the history of their days just as we are living the history of our days.I will never know who held my pens, or what they used them to write. It could have been love letters, business agreements, or simple doodles in moments of boredom or important documents of state.


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