On Kelner’s Theory of the Meaning of Life


According to [Martin] Kelner, this theory states that life is all about acquiring STUFF, then acquiring more STUFF, maybe changing your STUFF around a little, then acquiring even more STUFF, then getting a bigger place because there’s no room for all your STUFF, getting rid of some STUFF, then getting a smaller place because you haven’t got as much STUFF. Then you die.

John Windsor, discussing broadcaster Martin Kelner’s “Theory of the Meaning of Life” in the volume The Cultures of Collecting (Elsener and Cardinal, eds., 1994). Emphasis his.

Interesting Thought on Objects in Place and Time


Because the victors write history and their narratives are saturated with prejudices, historians are going to emphasize things to prove their point of view. I’m concerned with the truth in all its complexity. No written account… has ever satisfactorily explained how Hitler would come to power and dominate… a country that had the first social security system in the world and the most educated, civilized people on earth. It remains and will forever remain a mystery. I figured that if you went back and studied the artifacts of the time you might understand how this preposterous thing occurred. You know, glasses, chairs, tables, rugs, and telephones don’t lie. In contrast to historical narratives, you can’t make them lie, because their purpose, their function, and their design are clear.

– Mitchell Wolfson Jr, major Floridian philanthropist, and the world’s top collector of Nazi and fascist artifacts (and Jewish, as inversely unsurprising as that is), in conversation with Gregory Maertz, 1998. Quoted from the collection Acts of Possession: Collecting in America (2003, Rutger University Press), edited by Leah Dilworth.