The Raw and The Cooked

UnknownMaybe it’s the start of my seasonal affected disorder.  Maybe I’m just riding a Tryptophan-induced high from left-over turkey.  Or maybe I’ve slipped into an altered-state because today’s column is so tightly sandwiched between those iconic holidays of our consumer culture – Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

While I’m not exactly Cooleridge, scrambling to get a few lines of Kubla Khan down before my opium-inspired vision vanishes completely, I do feel strangely contemplative. Bear with me while I get a few fragments down that are dancing around in the Real Estate of my own Mind.

There’s a huge disconnect people feel around the holiday crush. A sense something is missing.  Is this a time for buying or for sharing?  Should we be thankful for what we have? Or out getting more stuff?

Why does more feel so much like less these days? Can we tell the difference anymore? Have the two switched places? Gone through some sort of weird transference?

Remember when Cable TV first offered 100 channels and you couldn’t figure out why there was nothing to watch?  A quaint notion that has been swallowed whole by a wired world where logging onto the internet is like trying to “get a drink of water from a fire hose.”

And where this “howl” by an early Facebook employee has assumed the identity of Ginsburg’s original.   “The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads, and that sucks”
Strike a chord? Here’s a mindful exercise. Look up the Visual Thesaurus for “consume”.  Note the contradictions layered into its nuances.  It can mean “to take in” or it can mean “to devour”. Ingest or destroy.  Engage or exhaust.  Absorb or deplete. 
How should we see it?  Does consuming make us feel half full? Or mostly half empty?  What does it mean to live in a consumer culture?  In an economic zeitgeist driven by consumer spending defined as a percent of it’s “gross domestic product?”   Where big data concepts like the Consumer Confidence Index exist and things called Credit Scores gauge worthiness to consume?  Where the Feds have esoteric discussions about things like “Consumer Fatigue” before deciding whether to print more money?
We have to consume to exist right?  But if things become too all-consuming isn’t the ultimate result a kind of wasting-away?  A dissipating form of consumption like the disease? The snake chasing its tail?  Feeding on itself so it can feed on itself?
Other homework assignments:  1) Watch George Carlin’s classic “Stuff” on you tube.  2)  Google  “The Paradox of Our Time” – also attributed to Carlin.  3) Read  ‘Present Shock’ by Douglas Rushkoff.  4) Watch a new you tube video called “Worn Wear”  produced by Patagonia.
Other news this week set the stage for Black Friday and Cyber Monday sale-abrations:  The DOW shot past 16,000 and NASDAQ went over 4,000 for the first time in 13 years as Silicon Valley experienced déjà vu and began to party like it was 1999 again.
Chase Bank agreed to pay a $13 billion fine for selling faulty mortgages in 2008 and Pope Francis called for a renewal of the Catholic Church with his first encyclical that included:  “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”
F Scott Fitzgerald once said:  “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

Hold that thought. To Be Continued next week…


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