Days 47: On My Relationship with Objects

I guess it would be unfair to write about what I don’t have without writing about the opposite side of the spectrum: What I have and (hopefully) will always have.

But let me begin with telling you how I spent my last 24 hours here in Tokyo. It’s actually quite basic: I walked 28 kilometers from Tsukiji (the fish market) area where I stayed to the nearby area called Ginza, to Tokyo Station, to the Imperial Palace and the area where all governmental buildings are located (i.e., the Diet Building), to Roppongi, and eventually to Shibuya where I spent my last two hours before the metro system closed at a mega music mall called Tower Record (we used to have one in Bangkok, and I remember going there almost every day growing up in the 90s) listening to some easy-listening mellow sound at its coffee shop on the second floor, and then some serious work of art at its classical music floor on the 6th. As the motto of the shop writes “no music, no life,” being there resting with a cup of coffee (followed by a glass of iced cold draft local beer) listening to great music, for free, is life.

Now, what are the 16 things that I have? Let’s get into it!

  1. My Montblanc fountain pen;
  2. My family, especially my mother and brother;
  3. My anthropological relationship with every single object that I owe;
  4. My love for architecture and built environment;
  5. My self-critic buddy who will always be with me when I think;
  6. My absolute hatred for conservatism;
  7. My unconditional biological and mental appreciation for women and their womanhood: their bodies, psychologies, and maternal instinct;
  8. My belief in open-mindedness plus skepticism, AKA falliblism;
  9. My appreciation for art, language, music, and philosophy;
  10. My eternal abhorrence for superficiality;
  11. My self-imposed doctrine in doing things because they’re the right things to do, and not because they may yield material and other forms of profits;
  12. My obsessive-compulsive disorder (AKA OCD) for personal and environmental hygiene, which, goes without saying, also encompasses my OCD for wanting to organize things and putting them in their right places;
  13. My obsession with Japan;
  14. My insatiable desire for hot spring (especially Japanese onzen), alcohol, and technological gadgets;
  15. My unquenchable thirst for knowledge and something new; and, lastly but definitely not leastly, which is why you are reading this,
  16. My writing.

I am going to head out soon to start my second full day here in Japan (yeah!) but let me lay out some of the explanations of why something are more important to me. I’ll explain more about other points in my next (and next next, and next next next) posts. Right now, let’s get into the only object on the list that I think I have.


These were the four objects that I couldn’t live without when I was doing fieldwork in Shanghai between the summer of 2013 and the fall of 2015. The fieldnote, a simple phone, a watch, a keychain (with a bottle opener of course), my highlighter color penciled, and my Moncblanc fountain pen.

OBJECTS IN MY LIFE: I also have an anthropological relationship with my objects. Everything that I buy — and by this I really mean everything at all — I always use it to the very last day of its life. I never throw anything away before they arrive at their timeliness demise. My mother often gets crazy over my obsession of wanting to use everything until its very last day. For that matter, I always try to prolong that by recycling everything possible. I mean, imagining if everyone is having the same relationship with their objects that same way I do, then there would be no consumerism, as we would just need one pen for 2 years, one note pad for a few months, and probably just one set of silverware of life. That said, the continuity of consumer society is not my concern. In fact, I wholehearted believe that we should only consume what we need. I have no respect for conspicuous consumption. Someone has asked me before if I see my relationship with objects as fetishism. Since I don’t think I have an excessive and irrational attachment to objects, I also don’t think that’s the case. This may have to do with the Buddhist belief in me. I believe that we are all born into the world naked and we will also leave the world the same way, so there’s nothing that I actually possess, and in fact, possession isn’t going to get one very far in life. Possession will, in fact, bring you down and make you fall from grace. So, in my life, I try not to possess anything, and try to give away what I don’t need any more to those that may need them. In my earlier post (the part three of On Why I Give Up Love trilogy, I believe), I have written about why possessive love is toxic: because when one treats the other as an object to be possessed, one devalues both one’s own capacity to be free from the false idea that one has any ability to possess anything, as well as the humanity of the counterpart. I don’t think anyone should be treated as an object, don’t you think?

That said, to me, objects are like people. I don’t think anyone should be treated as an object because in general objects are dispensable, although that’s not necessary the case for me. I believe that objects should only be replaced, like people, when their have reached the limit of their timely existence, which the owner of the object get the privilege to decide when. Objects are products of human’s intelligence and labor, and therefore they are dignified, and that is precisely why I feel as though I should love and respect them as though they are people — and that’s what I mean by having an “anthropological relationship” with them. Everything that I call mine (in my room, in my bag, and elsewhere) I still know exactly where I bought them. They are have their personal histories. I know, also, why I bought them. For instance, I am still using a glue stick and my red-inked pen that I bought at a W.H. Smith stationer located on Cornmarket Street in Oxford, UK, in the winter of 2008. I bought them that day because I needed the glue stick because I need to write my daily dairy in which I always cut and pasted stuff in an old-fashioned way, and I needed to red-inked pen to mark my own Chinese reading texts because I needed to remind myself which were the new vocabulary that I should re-write on my flashcards in order to try to memorize. When it comes to replacing things, I take it very seriously that I only get a new thing to replace the old one when I know exactly with the old one. For instance, I don’t get a new smartphone’s case very often at all (although it’s something that you could do it very easily as if almost it’s designed to be changed all the time) because, simply, I don’t know what I’d do with the old one. Keepin’ it in my drawer? I believe that to honor an object is to put it into use, so when it’s not used the way it should (but I am very open to defining a new usage for an object too) I feel sad. This goes also with my computer, which I only get a new one when the old one is no longer running, smartphone, electronic devices, and simply, just about everything at all.


My Montblanc pen and I. I have been using this pen since my father gave it to me in 2004 — for just about everything. The body was made of plastic so unfortunately it broke a few times and therefore I had it replaced a few times already. The part that has never been replaced is the nip, or tip of the pen, which for mine is made of 21K Gold (and maybe that’s why it’s so good?!) So, it may not be the same pen that my father gave me anymore if what contributes to that has to be its entire larger whole, but his spirit is there. I never want to posses anything that I won’t be able to use, or put it into use in the function for which it is being created. That is, I would never get a pen just to have it. I would get a pen, only to use it to write.

THE OBJECT: My Montblanc fountain pen is, no argument here, the single most important (and probably expensive) object that I owe. It’s important for two reasons: first, it was my father’s before I inherited it — and the fact that it’s my father’s may be the single most important reason why I love it and will always keep it close my heart and won’t never let it be stolen and lost (hopefully). I have been using it for more than ten years now. My father gave it to me as a graduation gift back in 2004 when I graduated from college. Second, because it’s so so so good! Monblanc fountain pen is the best fountain pen in the world. The ability to fully be in control the amount of ink to be released which correspond which how much pressure you put on both laterally and quasi-vertically (since most people write in 45-degree angle) is, simply, amazing. As an architect, and an self-proclaimed armature writer, I can’t ask for more. I can only write anything important with it. I always sign important documents with only this pen. It’s almost like a ritual — superstitiously speaking — to me. If I don’t get to sign important documents with this pen, then deep down I have a feeling that there might be a chance that something about that document might go wrong.



2 thoughts on “Days 47: On My Relationship with Objects

  1. Pingback: Day 48: Things I Cannot Live Withoutut | 100 days of writing

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