Monday, June 20, 2011

Seek Out a Few Old Things

Why do people save old things? Why do they visit historic places? Why do they buy and fix up antiques?

The fabulous American standard of living is largely based on rapid consumption of new things. Obselescence is planned and high-pressure salesmen work hard to create dissatisfaction with the old. Few urban families have lived in the same house more than ten years, and sound buildings less than fifty years old are cheerfully torn down to make room for larger and more up-to-date structures. Automobiles and TV sets barely five years old go out on the junk pile. The emphasis is on the present, and we are told that yesterday belongs to a dim and underdeveloped past.

We all seem to enjoy this transient sort of life, yet there is in every man a basic desire for stability, a subtle longing for a continuity of purpose. "This table has been in the family for five generations," someone says with pride, and in so saying salutes his ancestors. No matter how little he may actually know about them, he is fortified by the thought that they lived and worked and faced up to their problems, and that he himself is a link in a chain anchored in the past and reaching into the future.

So the pressure of everything new moves some of us to seek out a few old things, to remind us whence we have come, and to give a little aim to where we may be going.

- Moreton Marsh, The Easy Expert in Collecting and Restoring American Antiques (1959)


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