Thank the heaven above I’m an educated man and know nothing whatever upon any subject at all.
-Agatha Christie “The Seven Dials Mystery”
For the past week, I have been hooked on the newly released JFK files. I was a conspiracy buff in my 20s (long since not) and these files were one of those mythic items at the time. Promised in Oliver Stone’s JFK to be the answers to all questions.
I have been digging through them, and my eagerness to download them all and jump in reminded me of a personality trait that has been my greatest strength and also led me to accumulate so much over the years.
I have a compulsive, completionist personality.
That’s why I am drawn to collecting but also to learning.
Collecting is, at its core, the desire to have all, some, most, or the most perfect assemblage of something. As defined by you or by others. Every issue of a comic series, every movie by a certain director, a spoon from every city you’ve visited.
My youth was one of checklists, want lists, and things I “needed” to keep the collections complete.
I am compelled to see how things fit together. I learned how to make databases as a teen in the 90s so I could keep track of comic characters. My fascination with religion that led me to two degrees in the subject was born of a desire to understand how the pieces of it impact our lives and culture.
My passion for learning is, at times, overwhelming. When I find a new subject of interest, I feel compelled to dive in. To research it to exhaustion. When I began reading about the rise of fascism in 1930s Germany, I devoured book after book on the subject until repetition finally ended the thread.
When I discovered minimalism, I did notjust watch one documentary, I read a dozen books. Again only taking a break when I couldn’t glean anything new out of the next pile of source material.
This desire to reach the end of the body of knowledge is perhaps the biggest challenge I currently have with social media. I can’t get the ‘complete’ anything there. There is no ‘bottom’ to the Twitter or Facebook timeline. Instead, Twitter eventually stops loading page scrolls but promises it is only a problem “at this time.”
I can only get up to the minute. And part of my brain is hooked on the next thing not from a fear of missing out, but instead an innate desire to have all of the information.
I have been told in the past that I fixate on topics, sometimes to the irritation of those around me. That is not something that will change, because that fixation, the intellectual curiosity, is what drives me to learn and be better at what I do. It is what drives my thinking in minimalism.
Years ago I kept a journal and the first thing I wrote in it was a promise to myself – “For every thing I learn, I will learn one more.”