June 21, 2010 § 2 Comments
I visited my local Target store today, located in the friendly confines of Hollywood. The idea struck me on our way out of the place- why not hand out free razor blades with which to off myself? It would save me the trouble of finding the means with which to end my life and the misery I felt after strolling down the antiseptic lanes, stuffed with useless detritus that people are talked into believing they need or want.
The mall culture, invented by America, is one its most insidious global exports. There are many sad things to behold in our world today- starving children, environmental decay, the most recent winner of American Idol; but the most depressing thing my senses have had the misfortune of coming into contact with is this verbal interaction between two people:
“So what are you doing today?”
“Going to the mall.”
“Oh, what are you planning on buying?”
“Nothing. We’re just going to go there and walk around.”
Boredom is pervasive in our society. Most of us never have the privilege of having jobs that are stimulating, the kind of jobs that have us bouncing out of bed in the morning to get to. We also are not encouraged to create dynamic, fluid and daringly honest relationships with friends and family. Many couples live an entire life together and never really discover the true self lying next to them every night. For that matter, many of us never do the introspective work that can lead to profound personal growth and a more stimulating, vital life.
Instead, we go to the mall. People used to worship religious gods on sunday; now they worship the god of stuff. I witnessed people with flaccid, impassive expressions on their faces heading to the checkout holding onto large cardboard boxes. Were there objects to be found inside those boxes? Possibly. I don’t think for the most part it really matters. What is essential is that we buy something, that we obtain a bright and shiny new object that we will inevitably tire of tomorrow. But no matter; we will have found something else to purchase by then.
I had a wonderful, austere, ascetic teacher who used to say, “boredom is a defense.”
Her postulation was that wherever we are, if we are truly present and possessing a quiet mind, we can find anything fascinating with which we come into contact and if we feel bored it is only due to a resistance on our part to opening up to the immediacy of the moment. While I find those words ultimately incontestable, there are difficulties we all face in arriving at that quiet mind, that state of sensual curiosity. Somewhere along the way our society decided that ‘shock and awe’ qualified as entertainment. We have become spoonfed, our tastes and likes decided for us by corporations. We stand mute before so many bright lights and deafening sound, murmuring ‘wow’ to ourselves, all the while being anaesthetized to such an extent that we forget to check in with our feelings in time to discover that in fact, the ‘entertainment’ we shelled out our hard earned money for actually made us feel bad. ‘Bad’ in this case could mean emotionally shut down, depressed, frightened or even angry. There is a reason for certain restrictions being introduced to prevent some ‘entertainment’ being experienced by children. The effects of extreme violence and sensory overload is usually clearly visible in infants, but we have made the mistake of assuming greater maturity and life experience renders that same stuff harmless to adults.
It isn’t. The more in touch we are with our feelings, impulses and urges for creativity and greater self-care, the more dissatisfaction we may discover with movies that deaden us, food that constipates and fattens us and possessions that do not fulfill us. They may briefly quell the needs of our all-consuming ego but they do not go close to even touching the unconscious mind, the one that dreams and the voice inside us that seeks creativity and self-expression.
We have accepted boredom as a common state, something to be tolerated and assuaged by external salves that only leave us with a more profound sense of that same boredom. Many people, when asked how they are, will respond with the murderous cliche, “same shit, different day”.
The bar must be lifted. It is never the same day, never the same shit. The mall will usually leave most of us drained, tired, lighter in the wallet and just a little more cluttered at home, yet we are all surrounded by nature, which is free, renewable and usually leaves us feeling better, more at peace and with a renewed sense of kinship with the people who are sharing the experience with us. The same could be said of authentic interactions with other people that transcend small talk or creative enterprise that doesn’t necessarily involve the outlay of large amounts of money.
For make no mistake: there are countless corporations who are actively seeking, on a daily basis, to ensure that we do not find more authentic, vital and nourishing forms of entertainment and fulfillment. They do not want our minds to become quiet; human beings tend to like feeling good, and it is only our ignorance of those states of greater peace, joy, stimulation and aliveness that prevents us from seeking out places and ways of being in which to experience them more regularly.
Nancy Reagan said Just Say No in the 1980s, even as her husband said Yes to the greater corporate dominance of our society’s politics and culture through massive deregulation and disempowerment of the citizen by divers means, including media monopolization.
Illicit drug abuse is a problem, but there are more universally accepted drugs which are far more harmful to the general population.
Let’s starting saying No more often to empty forms of ‘entertainment’: too much TV, violent and hyperactive movies, the consumption of useless toys and awful, chemical food that is killing us.
What do we say Yes to in order to replace those activities?
I guess we’ll have to start getting creative.
Post script: In the interests of full disclosure, I bought a packet of tank tops, 2 t-shirts, a soccer ball and an air pump. I had no intention of buying any of those items upon entering the store. I suggested to my girlfriend Victoria that we get some people together and play soccer. Let us hope I turn that idea into a reality.