I've been struggling with a sense of disharmony and unease for a while now.
Usually, this time of year finds me full of myself: the weather's nice, flowers are blooming, I get to ride my bike, cute girls are showing more skin...you know the drill.
And that's there this year, but for some strange reason, I am unable to shed this ennui and the recessive feelings of winter. Naturally, I attribute it to some underlying physical state. Some kind of infection, perhaps a reaction to some medication, I'm not sure.
Or maybe it's an emotional state. Maybe I'm depressed and can't find my usual groove that rides me back to my manic state, that wildly creative impulse that's seen me write a book in 48 hours, or invent some of the funniest comedy in my life. I mean, I've seen bits and pieces of that spark here and there, but I look at what I've written lately, the photos I've taken, and I notice there's a sense of mean-spiritedness, of boredom, of sadness.
I can't put my finger on it, of course, but I notice it's not as shiny and happy as it can be, as filled with love as it has been.
I do a self-check. I don't seem to be depressed. I don't exhibit my standard flags for depression. I'm losing weight, I'm riding my bike as frequently as I can (with allowances for rest), I'm not drinking heavily, I'm even socializing and watching less TV and getting more done around the house.
I feel fine, apart from the stress of daily living.
Except...something was off.
I woke up this morning feeling my oats, except for that haunting little buzz that nagged me like the tinnitis I suffer from years of standing too close to the speakers at too many concerts as a kid. Ceaseless, yet I'm able to work around it. Incessant, but it is ignorable.
I got up, had coffee, checked my messages and email, and sat down for my morning contemplation/meditation, which usually involves petting ThumbPer, sipping coffee and laughing at the news if I can. Not hard today, I found, despite the realization that in 52 days, BP has done more damage to the environment than I've done in 52 years.
But hell, that probably happened back on day 7, so what do I know?
The mornings are quiet time for me. There's little noise coming through my window, save for the buzzing of the traffic helicopters coming into the city and the chirping birds. The crows haven't arrived yet. I dread that part of the summer. ThumbPer is awake and calm, as I've just fed him and he's thankful. The coffee is fresh and strong. My mind is quiet and unstressed.
I flipped the news off when they ran this ridiculous fluff piece around 7:30 and turned to Free Speech TV. And my eyes opened.
I mean, they really opened. Not in an alarmist, "OMG! END OF THE WORLD!" kind of way. More of "AHA! I get it now!" kind of way.
I do not want any more.
I have enough. As I sat there, drying off from my shower, my suit laid out on the bed, I realized I'm tired of being marketed to. I'm tired of being told what I must have, and how badly I want it. Good thing, too, but looking around, I want everything I have and have nearly everything I want.
In America, we live in the freest society in the history of the planet, and yet we are enslaved. How ironic that the very tools that gave us nominal freedom from tyranny allow us to be tyrannized. We have choice, yes. We can choose to go bankrupt buying this, or that. Take your pick! Don't want to buy either this or that? No problem! We have the other!
As I sit on my pile of stuff, I realize it's exciting. It's thrilling. I own an iPad! Look at me! But what does it mean? It means I'm chained to a life that demands I work a set number of hours five days a week at precisely the same time each day, get up precisely the same time each day. It means I have to get on the same subways, walk the same blocks, see the same sights, eat at precisely the same time.
I'm a monkey in a cage, a shark in a tank. Sure, I can alter this routine a little, but that's like the shark swimming right instead of left. He's still in the fucking tank! Or I could switch jobs, but ultimately I have to be in a tank.
Why? Because I want. And now, I'm full. The damnable thing about it is, I've known this for a while and yet, I've kept running my credit card at meltdown speed. It's an addiction, and it's an addiction we all suffer from. And like all addictions, even tho we've reached a point where it's just not healthy anymore, we keep stuffing our houses with just one more thing.
Notice, this isn't about spirituality. It's not about suddenly deciding to become a full-throated Buddhist and shedding all my possessions, slicing the tops off my shoes and living in a tree, learning to play the flute. I feel fine spiritually. I'm in a good place.
It's about slavery. It's about the people of the United States freely trading governmental tyranny for the tyranny of the marketers and marketplace and their co-horts, employers. It's about finally rising up and saying "STOP!" I've become my own worst fear, a human "doing". I don't live, I do.
Socrates was right about so many things in his life, and back in ancient Greece "to do is to be" made a lot more sense when the most you could hope to acquire in your lifetime was some property to grow your own food or a ship to sail the ocean. If Socrates saw what his mantra hath wrought, it strikes me he'd be livid at Americans, and regret that statement.
We surrendered this land, this great and bountiful land, to a corporatocracy that will do the bare minimum to keep us quiet as it picks our pockets, the pockets of our children and grandchildren and the pockets of anyone else it can reach. And. We. Did. It. Freely.
And for what? A new car every few years, a new toy, a faster commute, an easier way to do the dishes, a more stylish look? Ben Franklin famously said "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
We've done worse. We gave up essential liberty for a pair of designer shoes. And we put it on the credit card. We'll be paying for those shoes long after they've worn down and been thrown out.
I thoroughly understand the thrill of acquisition. Later this month, in fact, I'm due to claim my share of a shipwreck's treasure, paid for with money I do not have any longer, but at least there's an intrinsic value to it. At least it will be as valuable as what I paid for it. At least I will never throw it out, and I will be more thrilled because it's a part of history.
I segregate the thrill of having from the thrill of being a part of history. And it's the former thrill that one feels when one gets a new computer, or a new ring.
But what's the history to be had with that? What does it mean?
Is that really all it's about? How boring! How yawning a chasm of despair are we trying to climb out of when we buy a bauble and enjoy it?