Why Do We Prize the Rare?

Why own different or rare stuff?

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Why does something become less cool once everyone owns it?

I’m quite certain that Tesla (Model S, Model 3) is the best best car ever made. I think they’re super cool.

But after living in Bay Area for a few months (and seeing everyone in San Jose and Palo Alto with one), they become a lot less cool. Why? Everyone has got one.

Which makes me wonder — why is so much of the “coolness” of something based on the rarity? And also — what is the point of owning rare and unique things? What is our real goal here?

Why we like rare.

Since Iliad times, rare and unique objects were desired. The heroes of the Iliad were rewarded with rare objects, one of a kind objects which were either acquired in plundering certain cities or made via skilled craftsmen.

There are also things highly desired — like the armor of Achilles. But why this obsession with rare and beautiful objects?

1. We desire to distinguish ourselves?

The first hypothesis:

Perhaps we desire to own rare objects and things in order to distinguish ourselves as being more unique, powerful, and ‘worthy’ than others.

All societies in human time have prized wealth as one of the highest goods (although philosophers have always scorned wealth). From a naturalistic perspective it makes sense: having more money and wealth meant you had more food, shelter, chances of survival, and ability to procreate more children (more wives, more possessions, etc).

But then comes the question: by possessing rare, expensive, or unique things — does this actually make us richer, more wealthy, and more influential?

2. Does owning rare stuff open up opportunities to make us wealthier?

Yes and no. Let us say you are poor, working class, or middle-class, and you want to jump social classes and become richer. Certainly the adage: “Your network is your networth” holds true (or the other saying, ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.’).

For example, let us say you get a Rolex and you join a rare watch collection club. Of course these dudes will be rich– and perhaps open up new wealth-making opportunities for you. Same goes if you own a Ferrari, Lamborghini, or any exotic car. Rich guys congregate together, and conspire together (how everyone can become richer together).

I know firsthand that buying a Leica opened a lot of new opportunities to me (status-building, wealth-building, building a network of more rich/powerful/influential peoples).

If you’re a real estate agent trying to sell homes to clients, you would probably look more trustworthy if you show up in a Mercedes than showing up in a Toyota Camry. People often use material possessions as a shortcut of your legitimacy, your wealth, influence, and power.

But if you don’t need anything from anyone else– why have these status symbols and totems of power?

3. Do you like the things for what they symbolize, how they make you feel, or for the sake of ownership?

I guess this is the sincere question you must ask yourself.

For example, I have this really epic old-school Rolex I inherited from my grandfather (1950’s era, Oyster Perpetual) in stainless steel (my friend Don told me this is very rare). Anyways, it is worth a bunch of money, and it looks pretty cool. But I don’t really like to wear it. Why? Partly the anxiety of someone chopping off my wrist, but mostly the annoyance of wearing a watch. I feel less free and nimble with a watch. Therefore although I could wear it to ‘flex’, I prize my own comfort and personal convenience than caring about flexing to others.

4. Who is the tastemaker?

Also the problem is this:

Our tastes are often super-imposed upon us by others.

We are told how to dress, how to pair our wine with our meats, and all these other lifestyle things. But how rarely do we ask ourselves:

Am I getting suckered into following this certain taste, or do I genuinely like the taste (without outside influence)?

For example, I love the Yeezy sneakers. Many people like the Jordan sneakers, but as a kid — I never desired them (never though they looked that cool). For myself, a way to determine my tastes:

Hold back, linger, be slow on adopting new things, procrastinate from the hype. Then let time do her magic.

The more time you have, the more clarity you gain in your life decisions and lifestyle preferences.

5. I just want to encourage people to think for themselves

Think for yourself, dictate and determine your own tastes. To do this:

  1. Hang back (don’t decide immediately)
  2. Harness ‘wise/purposeful procrastination
  3. Be very vocal about your personal criticisms
  4. Avoid online websites and blogs on news and certain topics; let yourself be your own filter (and call out B.S. what you consider B.S.)

And ultimately, you want others to admire you for your virtues, your courage, your audacity, and your brazenness (not your stuff). Ultimately we admire Steve Jobs for his fanaticism on perfection and simplicity, we admire Elon Musk for his epic brazen thinking, we admire Kanye West for being so outspoken, and we admire the heroes of Homer for their courage in battle.

So ultimately let your character and actions be what distinguishes you!



Philosophy by KIM

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