Thursday, March 03, 2005

More, Inc. (TM)

I've been feeling kind of stuck all week, creatively speaking. Ever since I posted my brief piece about Bill Hicks, I've just sort of felt ... at sea. Kind of deflated. Kind of depressed.

Everywhere I look I see the idiocy he talked about. Crass consumerism substituted for genuine experience and feeling. Selfish malevolence wearing a cloak of righteousness. Apathy disguised as activism. It's those stupid magnetic ribbons on people's cars. It's rent boys posing as journalists with the probable knowledge and blessing of our "leaders." It's religious zealots pretending that posting religious documents in houses of law somehow honors the ideals of America. It's being beholden to a political system that consists of two sides of the same fucking coin, with one side coming up more often lately and so many people pretending, or worse yet really believing, that things would be so much better if the other side would just get a chance.

And it's multitudes of people, covering their eyes, ignoring reality, desperately trying to avoid seeing just how bad things are getting, distracting themselves with sit-coms and talk shows and self-improvement videos and inspirational reading and video games and news programs that are more scripted and less real than reality television shows. People thinking that contributing a dollar or two for a rubber bracelet simultaneously proves to the world that they "care" about people with testicular cancer and excuses the absurd consumption that defines their lives. People desperately trying to be/have/get/spend/show More. Becoming more significant than other people by buying more THINGS. More patriotic. More caring. More conservative. More liberal. More, Inc.(TM).

And I'm not above it. I'm not immune. I'm a product of my culture, such as it is. I want things. I accumulate stuff. I earn, and then I spend it to make myself feel ... more. Bigger. Important. Significant. It's like if you're not buying mor stuff, you somehow cease to exist.

For example, right now I want a new car, even though the one I'm using is just fine. I tell myself I'd buy a new one, but it would be really fuel efficient, one of those Prius's, maybe, and that somehow makes it OK. Plus, they're cool, right"? And people I don't even know, but who I think matter somehow, will think I'm a really cool guy for driving a hip, liberal, progressive vehicle. Cool! And that way I won't have to actually do anything to get my Progressive Liberal Membership Card aside from make my lease payment every month.

"And besides," says that little voice in the back of my head, "don't you deserve a new car?" The voice of Madison Ave., somehow implanted within the neo-cortex of every red-blooded American.

And I want a Bright Blue Dot for my car, so I can tell people I don't know that I'm really a liberal and I'm so damn outraged and that I'm Not One of Them, all without ever actually engaging with Them and talking to Them and trying to change their minds or enabling Them to try to change mine. And this way I can go around feeling like I somehow made a difference, really stood up to the conserva-nazis that are destroying the things I love about this place, even though all I did was spend some fucking cash on a sticker and then went back to, oh, I don't know, shopping or eating or watching TV.

I Want. It's what I do. It's what most of us do, isn't it? I mean, really, at the base, isn't that what we are? I'm a Consumer, like pretty much everyone in America. Consumption defines us. It's what we are, it's what we do, it provides the Alpha and Omega of Life in America. I accept this, even though I know it's shortchanging myself to an extent. But at least I can try to consume responsibly. I can try to consume in a way that doesn't deny things from others. And I can try to teach my kids to look at the bigger picture.

And I try. I really try. But I don't think I'm making a lot of progress.

I think I really need to explore Buddhism.


In closing, another quote from Bill Hicks.

The world is like a ride at an amusement park. It goes up and down and round and round. It has thrills and chills and it's very brightly coloured and it's very loud and it's fun, for a while. Some people have been on the ride for a long time and they begin to question, is this real, or is this just a ride? And other people have remembered, and they come back to us, they say, "Hey - don't worry, don't be afraid, ever, because, this is just a ride."

And we ... kill those people. Ha ha "Shut him up." "We have a lot invested in this ride. Shut him up. Look at my furrows of worry. Look at my big bank account and my family. This just has to be real."

It's just a ride.

But we always kill those good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok. Jesus, murdered. Martin Luther King, murdered. Malcolm X, murdered. Gandhi, murdered. John Lennon, murdered. Reagan ... wounded.

But it doesn't matter because: It's just a ride. And we can change it anytime we want. It's only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings and money. A choice, right now, between fear and love.

The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love, instead, see all of us as one. Here's what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride. Take all that money that we spend on weapons and defenses each year and instead spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace.
Mood: Dour
Now Playing: Brian Eno and David Byrne, "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts"


MonkeyBoy Thom said...

The little red piece of string, tied around my wrist, makes me invulnerable! And sexy!

What will those wacky Jews think up next?

Rachel said...

Gregg--if you want to explore meditation, get "Mindfulness in Plain English"

and use it as an instruction manual (not as a sunday-afternoon read). This practice is completely independent of what you believe: you don't have to stop being a Christian to start being a meditator. If you want to talk more about this, e-mail me.

Gregg P. said...

Thanks for the pointer -- and funny you should mention not needing to "stop" being a Christian to embrace Buddhism." That's exactly the thing my sister-in-law said to me the other day that got me rolling toward this rant in the first place! She had attended a lecture by a gent here in Austin regarding Christianity and Buddhism. The kernel of his speech was that contrary to popular belief they are far from mutually exclusive things, largely in that Buddhism is really a philosophy as opposed to a religion or system of belief.

I'll defnitely check out the book you recommended, and once I have some cogent thoughts to work with I'll drop you a line. Thanks!


Karl Elvis said...

I am the patron saint of want. When I stop wanting, it means I'm no longer living. I'm made pretty much entirely of want.

Some of your readers have encountered this first-hand. B^)

Gregg P. said...

Random thoughts in response:

1. One of the interesting things about the word "want," I think, is that it is used two essentially opposite contexts. On one hand it's used (in a positive sense) as an expression of desire, while on the other hand it's used (in a more negative sense) an expression of lack or shortcoming. Just an observation.

2. I don't think there's necessarily a problem with desire, per se. It's fine to want things/people/experiences. I think the larger issue is that we are pretty much being programmed by marketing and society to confuse "want" with "need" as much as possible. And worse yet, we're encouraged to substitute "stuff" for "experience." Purchase a symbol of something and it's like you've done/been that thing.

For instance, it's the difference between wanting a tattoo because a) you want to feel the sensation of the needle, an indelible moment of your life etched in your own skin, the physical realization of something that bubbles up in your mind vs. b) getting a tattoo because, well, when people see it they'll think you're cool. Examples of this are near infinite in American culture...

Rachel said...

Karl--Wait, which hand is the *first* hand? I forget.

Gregg--same thing with "cleave". You can "cleave to" something, but not if you're using a cleaver.

Lee said...

Gregg 0 There's also been a couple of Christians who studied and wrote about Buddhism. One was thomas Merton who was a monk and became friends with the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Han, a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk. I'll try to remember the other.

There's also a book titled "Jew in the Lotus" about a dialogue betweeen several Jewish leaders and the Dalai Lama which is also a good read.