Thursday, October 8, 2009

Does confusion bleed into indecision in other parts of life?

entertainment_centerIdeas for blog topics turn up at the oddest times. My dentist was talking about building his own media component cabinet and installing a case fan for circulating air to the heat-producing devices. He made his own because pre-mades in furniture stores aren’t well-ventilated but he didn’t want the components on open shelves either.

Younger readers may find this laughable if they have always placed components on open shelves and consider cabinets unnecessary. But I remember in the 1970s we were called the confused generation and the guiding symptom was our preference to choose our own audio components a la carte but assemble them neatly in furniture quality cabinets we now call entertainment centers.

The generation of the 1950s had been persuaded to accept the status symbol of the entertainment console. It was a piece of furniture built for a company like Motorola or RCA, as examples, to house one of their built-in TV sets, a radio, and a record player. (link to a photo) If you bought from stock you took what came with it. If you could afford to custom order you could choose from components that fit.

Prices varied related to the size of the console and the type of wood plus the components. A console bought off the sales floor made from pine that would fit a 19-in diagonal black and white TV with only an AM radio and a monaural record player while not cheap was considerably less expensive than one made of maple to fit a 25-in color TV with AM-FM radio and stereo record player.

As the 70s marched toward the 80s, more and more individual components were being sold. You could choose the exact power receiver, turntable, and cassette deck as well as the type of amplifier and the size and number speakers for your stereo system; shoot you buy them from different labels.

This is where the confusion came in; those of us who graduated from college before 1975 (or should have) tended to want a la carte components but housed them in enclosed entertainment centers while those who graduated later tended to put the loose components on open shelves. The explanation at the time was that we pre-1975ers wanted the sound quality of the discrete components but had not disengaged from the visible status attached to the console.

Because we straddled the console versus component divide with entertainment centers as a new status symbol we were believed to be confused about whether we were establishment or anti-establishment. The effect of this so-called status confusion was purported to be at the heart of much of our generation’s indecision across life; and so it went.

I think in some ways we’re still caught in this crisis of recognition. The old symbols we used to collect to reinforce our value or worth are becoming clutter in the twenty-first century lifestyle. When a number of cartons of so-called family heirlooms came to my charge I saw how much was just broken junk and tossed the junk out. My current transition from married to single and downsizing to build a leaner lifestyle has prompted me to question why I do and have and pursue the things I do. Are they truly meaningful to me? Or am I leaning on them to create a superficial sense of status when I am uncertain of my own value in the world?

As a neutral example, quilting goes way back in my families. I did not learn how to do the running stitches because no one would teach a left-hander but I spent hours at grandmother’s elbow while she quilted and slept under them all my life. Several unquilted tops and her frame came to be mine by default and it is my chance to really become a quilter. But while I have one halfway done, it hasn’t been accompanied by the same feelings for the process I remember from childhood.

The question I struggle with is this: am I quilting because I am a quilter; or am I quilting because it’s the one thing that family did well and I don’t want to be remembered as the one who killed family quilting?

I could give other examples but you can think up plenty of your own. There is only so much time in a day, really in a lifetime, or space in our homes. So it is important to invest in and collect only those activities, and achievements, and changes we truly want to be remembered for irrespective of the established status symbols; and let the rest of it go to somebody else.


chelle said...

Wow so much to think about. I am struggling at the moment to define myself. Am I merely a mother, care giver, wife, house keeper or is there time fro something more?

I think you should keep trying at the quilt, but maybe do it your way, machine quilt or try a different stitch?

Margaret Cloud said...

I am sorry I am not from a quilting family, but I do appreciate those that have the skill. The entertainment console you mentioned, with TV, radio and record player, we had one. When I married in 1959 my Aunt gave it to us because we couldn't afford our own. Very nice post, enjoyed reading it. Have a nice Sunday.