Dough-Faced Nation

28 04 2008

Hey, I just looked up and found an article in the Independent Weekly that I liked in 2005.  Observe it if you like.  Maybe you’ll like it.  It’s like that.

Here y’are



24 04 2008

I’ve recently watched Into the Wild, a movie about a kid who, upon graduation from Emory University in 1992, set out to completely remove himself from society. He burned or cut up all of his identification and cash, donated his life savings to charities, and started tramping across the country with the intention of going into the Alaskan wilderness and surviving as his own man. Anyone who knows me knows how much I both envy and fear his resolve. There’s nothing I’d like to do more than what he did (though I’d never choose Alaska, as you also might know. I mean, it’s cold up there, right?).  Still, I’m sure I’d rather not ditch my savings or my ID. Something about burning bridges I picked up on my journey thus far rings in my head. Anyway, of course I feel largely as he did about our societal structures and feel the same pull to get out from under as many of them as possible. Old news. I just wanted to recommend the movie, as it is extremely well done and has good messages.

In the aftermath, I called Amol and told his voicemail about it, and in my rambling, I ended up talking about my thoughts on attachment. I don’t even know what I said anymore, but it was something along the lines of how attached I was to things I didn’t care for and didn’t really, at the core of it all, even believe in. He voicemailed me back and said this (and I’m paraphrasing):

“Even worse, I think the degree of my attachment is inversely proportional to how much I genuinely care about them. The more important something truly is to me, the less a part of me I generally strive to make it. And the more obvious something is without meaning to me, at its root, the more afraid I am to let it go.”

Spot-on, amigo. And: could it be that we’ve already basically discovered that our societal obligations (our “common” needs and desires and activities) are without true redeem, do not help us learn or enjoy or love more, and we’re now to a point that we realize we have to choose to either be part of a system that we know doesn’t work for us or risk being very lonely on our search for more?

Maybe not so lonely? I know others like us. If we’re all afraid of the same thing, it makes sense that we continue to struggle and worry. Who can think of severing their ties to the only culture they’ve ever been a part of and not (to borrow one of my favorite phrases from across the pond) have the piss taken out of them?

to space dust we shall return

3 04 2008

did you know the appalachian mountains used to be about 3 times as tall as they now are?  they’re the oldest mountains on our continental plate and have been weathered away at a rate of .003 inches per year for around 470 million years.  if every second was a year, it would have taken 16 years for them to weather this much.  and the glacial drifts wore them down some too.

man or astro-man, i love thinking about the world over vast distances of time.  i used to be nerve-wrackingly concerned that humans were ruining the planet and all of the good natural life that had come to be through a little design, a little luck, and a long while was all for naught, because we were here to erase it all.  at our present rate of commercial fishing, in 40 years we’ll have fished out the ocean (not that we would have caught everything, but we’d have completely destroyed links in the food chain which would unzip the bulk of ocean life).  i used to get so angry that humans were so pleased with themselves that they didn’t care much what havoc they wreaked on the other living (and unliving) citizens of the planet so long as they had a gross profit to brag about and a couple of extra cars in the driveway.  i used to fret constantly that everyone knows how destructive we’re being, is too greedy to say it out loud, and can quote the hell out of the “dominion over all other creatures” part of the bible whilst not being able to think of all 10 of those pesky commandments.  not that the commandments would save all the poor plants and animals in our crosshairs.

but when you start to think of what the earth’s already been through–at least 12 ice ages and 2 asteroid hits that have reduced the animal life back to virtually nil–you begin to realize that while it’s not begging us to give it our best shot, it’s also likely not too concerned about it.  i don’t mean to absolve us of responsibility for our actions or accountability to our co-dwellers, but in the end, our time is going to come, and things will eventually restabilize.

probably our short history, and our incredibly short industrial history, is nothing more than a zit on the inside of the nose of a teenage homecoming queen.  it annoys her, it even hurts a little, but in the grand scheme, everyone’s looking at her boobs anyway.  no wait–i meant, in the grand scheme, we’re a noisome, fleeting nuisance only.   that doesn’t really make it all that much more bearable to be stuck here with us.  but it helps.

The People That We Are

1 04 2008

I sort of promised myself I wouldn’t use this blog for ramblings that are rooted, more or less, in negativity. But I didn’t guarantee it, and I didn’t pinkie-swear myself to it. And I might have already broken the faux pact already, so it can be argued that there isn’t sense to keeping the charade going any longer in any case.

I don’t like people, it seems. At least, not on days like today. Earlier, I’d found myself able to make a distinction between people and people overtaken by their surroundings, and perhaps I’m still able to keep that academic line drawn, but that does nothing to ameliorate the capital R Reality that I have to live with them.

I have an admission to make: a few months ago I noticed that I was holding my breath when passing people on the street, so as to not intake that which they had once taken in themselves. I’d never consciously decided to do so. I just started doing it. And today, coming back from lunch as the university was in between classes, I found myself having to hold my breath for painfully extended periods of time. I kept thinking to myself that these people weren’t bad, and they didn’t even actually believe in the culture that they so powerfully emulated: North Face this, Aeropostale that. They just happened to be part of it.

I think that the natural animal competitiveness that humans have carried forth from the foraging and hunting days greatly aids the corporate agendas of our consumer culture. It’s simple, really: no one has to fight for survival anymore, and so that drive has been cleverly replaced by the desire to have things. And, more importantly, to have nicer and more things than others.

Even people cognizant of this bait-and-switch, who know that these things won’t make them happy, easily fall prey. I used to only buy things that allowed me to build my creative muscle, but they were waiting for me there, too. Now I have a sexier computer to type my drivel, and more musical instruments and effects than I have time to learn to use properly. And I’m embarrassed to admit that I spend just as much time researching and learning about and getting excited by the hype for these things as I do using them. I’m as big a dope as anyone.

I think that at some point, world’s economy was driven by the needs and the wants of the culture: outfitters stocked snow boots because that’s what people needed. Since we’ve become a “land of plenty,” however, businesses have produced a great excess of goods and services and turn it over to crafty advertisers to make people believe that they want or need all of these things. And as long as they’ve got people inventive enough to come up with this crap and find ways of enticing others to buy it, we’ll remain precisely what we are now: an economy-driven culture whose identity stems directly from the products we’re convinced to purchase instead of the people that we are.