How scarcity serves us

If you have all of the books, you have none of the books.”

John Roderick, podcaster, musician, philosopher king, said something along these lines once. He was referring to how we live in a world where we can get everything we want at our fingertips. There are very few restrictions (so long as you have the means, any way). There was a time where you could have as many books as you could fit on your bookshelf. Or, at least, in stacks in your house. Even Powells Books, which is the largest brick and mortar bookstore in the country, has a limited supply. It might be huge, but it’s not all of the books. The internet brings us all of the books. And the music. And the TV. And the…well…everything.

I’m especially thinking about this regarding music. I have access to all 50 million songs in the iTunes library. I pay what I think is a fair amoutn for this. I can experience just about anything. And so sometimes I find myself walking away from music because I’m overwhelmed. Or I listen ot the same thing over and over and over. What am I losing by having it all?

I think we lose some of what limitations can offer us. Scarcity, like anything is useful in certain contexts. The abundance of all things can flood the system, making it all have zero meaning. When I had physical media, there was a ritual to it. There may have even been ceremony at times. But in a world of digital media, where it’s all invisible, it feels like it’s lost something. I think this is one of the reasons I’ve been hesitant to get rid of many books, and to fully make the switch to e-books. It’s kind of a last frontier for me.

This is an interesting time. I’m starting to walk back a fair amount of the way I’ve held life over the past 15 years or so. Moving toward less digital. More physical. More presence. More meaning. To be clear, I’m not saying these things are bad. I’m saying that I’m looking to find the intentional mix that works best for me. Scarcity and abundance. Physical and digital. Being and doing.

It’s an unfolding that’s always moving.

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