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Hoarding is a way of seeking love

By Father Jonathan Filkins

Guest Columnist 

Some of us, if not most of us, collect, or are attracted to, some element of our society. It may run the gamut from collecting vintage cars, or stamps, or antiques, or DVDs. The list goes on, and on. Emotionally, we may collect activities such as sports, or dancing, or painting, or exploring the world. Each, in our own personal view, ascribes some value to the object, or experiences.

Some collections border on the fanatical. Who has not heard the excuse, “Well, I have a fetish for ______. (Fill in the blank.)” We all know these folks. The entry could be “shoes,” or “purses,” or “make-up,” or “fishing poles,” or “tools,” or “food.” Remember Amelda Marcos, the wife of the Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who had an enormous designer shoe collection. She had amassed far too many shoes, more than she could wear in her lifetime and spent a considerable sum to build a room to display them. This, in spite of themillions who lived in extreme poverty in her country. She went beyond having a fetish and became a hoarder.

Much of today’s media hoopla centers around “reality-based” programming and frequently active, if not rabid, participation with our social media. With a rapidly developing communication culture, it is easy. Our senses are inundated with the odd, sometimes perverse, natures of our fellow humans. We collect these experiences in our minds and allow them to become our standards and values.

On The Learning Channel there is a program entitled “Hoarding: Buried Alive.” It has a format where the person doing the hoarding, is identified and described, the psychiatrist introduced, the conflicts ensue. Occasionally, there is a success story. There are all sorts of excuse for the hoard. Often, it centers on a broken relationship, or tragic event. It always centers on perceived need, often requiring professional intervention.

For those of us who have not fallen into these depths, there must be caution, We delude ourselves if we assume invulnerability. A simple interest may become a fetish and then an obsession. A drinker becomes a drunk. A drug user becomes an addict. A “professional” shopper, or a gambler, spends the entire household’s money. A teenager goes from the living room to being sullenly cloistered in their bedroom, hugging their Xbox….

In our human condition, we all have needs, we all need comfort. Most of all, we all need to be loved. Placing our needs into objects, or activities, briefly insulates us from the pain we feel. Our earthly grounding becomes as temporary as the clouds, as these activities impart a momentary sensation of the charity we need.

There is only one hoarding, or fetish, activity we are permitted: that is to love God, through Jesus Christ. As Jesus said, when asked by the Pharisees about the greatest Commandments, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and Great Commandment, and the second is like unto it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Truly keeping Him, beyond just our thoughts, but in our deeds and actions, keeps us on the Via Media, the middle road and grounded in His truth, which provides all the love we need.

(Father Filkins is a guest columnist and the Rector of St. Barnabas Anglican Church.)