Monday, October 9, 2017

The High Cost of Enlightenment

Take the red pill, right? You want to wake up and see it all. But dude, it hurts.

I don't know if I can get my thoughts together effectively enough here. I'm thinking of this becoming a book some day, so I'll try and make this anecdotal and digestible. It will lose so much and come across as a first-world problem. But, here we are. I'm going to try.

I can't go to Target by myself. I lose my mind every time. I'm going to sound crazy and pathetic, but every time I get into Target and my wife isn't there to keep me focused, entertained, or thinking about something else entirely, I turn every aspect of my target shopping experience into a window looking out at the post-capitalistic-dystopian-nightmare in which we live.

So today--and get ready to make fun of me--I was looking for a hotdog costume. Yes, I was a full-grown man looking for a hotdog costume. I feel like I've already lost my right to complain. (As an aside, my wife tried on this hotdog costume a couple weeks ago and found it hilarious. It cheered her up and she needs it, considering her mother's breast cancer relapse. She's been out of town taking care of her mom, with only short visits back home. We couldn't afford it then, but I got paid and all of a sudden I thought, this will cheer her up again--let me buy her the damn hotdog costume). I was also looking for red leggings to complete one of my daughter's costumes and a box of red beans and rice that my daughters can make on the night when I'm teaching class.

Now, I was shopping on October 9th. That seems, honestly, like a fine time to go shopping for a costume. But the section was picked-over. Big time. No hotdog costume. Oh well, I sighed, on with my life. So I went to get the leggings. Nope, not in the right size. Then the box of processed food to feed my kids while both their parents are out--one working his third job, the other taking care of her mother who is suffering of cancer. Nope.

I wanted to kick something. I had three very specific items in mind and they didn't have any of them. And, in each section, there was a worker pointing me to other options. "What about mac and cheese?"; "What about the black leggings?"; "Maybe she wants to be a banana?"

I didn't fret. I'm a grown man with three degrees and as many jobs, I can handle this setback. So, off to another Target, right?

Well, they didn't have any of it either. All out! This time a worker looked up other stores and found a hotdog costume in one town, the leggings in another, and the red beans and rice two hours away. My day was waning, and I was wasting it in a florescent lit Hell. But now I was determined.

I chose the damn hotdog costume. The woman who looked it up initially said, "Why don't you order it online?" Then she looked and saw that it was not sold out--they no longer carried it. They carried it last week, when it was barely October, but they had since stopped. I was not going to miss out on the last hot dog costume in southern California.

I got to the last store. Found the damn costume. It was $10 more than I thought, but I bought it. And I didn't feel triumphant, I felt stupid. I felt utterly, and completely worthless.

This is a subject that I could go on and on about, but I'll try and make it short. For the better part of the day, I had substituted my wife's happiness for my own and the hotdog costume for her happiness. It became the meaning to my life. It was all I could see. And it really means nothing.

The store doesn't care if it carries the right things. Each person tried to show me an alternative--so selective absence of products can actually be helpful--you might buy what you didn't come for. You will likely err on the side of the more expensive or getting two options instead of the missing one. Big deal if this happens for one person, but if it happens over and over and over to people all over the country, that's big business.

Not that being out of red leggings is a conspiracy, but the ability to make the acquisition of those leggings create a precognitive link with a deep seeded emotion pretty much is. I have jobs and degrees and I struggle, so the acquisition of what I want can substitute for the success that I often don't feel. And while the struggle to find the object pervades, it's hard to drop the quest because I actually feel worthless.

We don't make logical choices, we follow emotions. We use logic to justify those emotional resolutions, that's all. And as long as we wiggle on the hook of this, our emotions can lead us to strange things, like putting off boat loads of work in order to find a hot dog costume that really means very little to my wife.

My biggest problem is this: I know all of this stuff, and yet can get wrapped up in the web. And feeling those feelings, knowing where they come from and how this isn't really ME, but feelings that are passing through me that I identify temporarily as myself, that makes me feel even worse.

If I were enlightened, I would laugh at all of this. But, as a semi-enlightened guy, it makes me feel even more trapped. The red pill works, but doesn't free us; we step out of one cage and into the yard of a bigger cage. But it's cages all the way down.

Is it worth it, to feel know better what freedom is, but to remain trapped?

No comments: