John's Blog

The Blog of John Gibson, PhD

Bike lust self and objects

Bike Lust

Ducking into the bike store on a rainy day with a need to exchange some gloves... Bikes everywhere––hanging from the ceiling, crowded into racks... Skinny tires, fat tires, super thin tires. Bikes for all riders, young and old.

A good bike is a marvel of technology, but it’s also a symbol of possibility. A good bike is a work art and a feat of design.

Why is that some objects call out to us in such a way as to make us weak in the knees? What emotions do we infuse into them?

For me, a bike is many things. A link to childhood memories. A hint of who I could be with the promise of the right ride. A feast for the senses.

The objects that mean the most to us are symbols of the self. They are extensions of who we are, were, or would like to be.

My father died recently. I’ve spent the last several weeks sifting through his stuff. Some of the objects that he’d collected over the years have little value or meaning to me, but of course they did to him. When I sort through his belongings, I see not the just the man I knew--his public self--but the remnants of a man I knew less about--his private self. I’ll end of keeping a few of his possessions, not for the sake of monetary value, but because they’re symbols of our shared history. Little pieces of his life will be incorporated into my life.

Isn’t it interesting how our sense of self extends beyond our physical bodies? The self includes culture, place, people, and yes, objects. Objects we had, have, and want, and objects we share.

But I digress...

Back to the bike store. Turns out I’m smitten with one bike in particular. It’s love at first sight, though I’m not about to road test it because it’s raining. Maybe it’s better this way. Maybe I should show fidelity to the bike have? How many bikes does an average rider need?

Once I’m back in the car, my bike lust subsides. Reason resumes control of my brain. Surely one bike is enough. Surely I have way too many possessions in my life as it is.

How possessions does it take to define a self?