Consumerism

Sharing Saturation Through DeLillo’s “White Noise”

Over summer, my wife and I visited the most photographed lighthouse in the world. We didn’t question the claim’s validity. We just went with it. The lighthouse stop was part of our New Hampshire and Maine last minute road trip. It was a good trip. We slept in the car and jumped in the water and ate a lot of seafood. We were in York when we heard about it: “The most photographed lighthouse.” Just up the road, said the internet, a few miles from where you are.

So we jumped in the car and found it. Instinctively, my first thought was, Yes, this looks like a lighthouse. It’s cute, scenic, impressionable. It is all the things lighthouses are and should be.

I didn’t want to take a picture.

Rather, it seemed better to be the guy who visits “Most Photographed” type places, and doesn’t take pictures. The concept would make for a good blog. But as I stood there watching dozens of tourists snapping their film and tapping their screens—a fervent mixture of new and old technology, crunching, shaking, iPhones uploading moments through invisible data, data that I too could claim!—something crept up inside me, like a tremor, and before I knew it, there I was, unceremoniously taking a picture.

So here’s the picture:

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It wasn’t until later, while reading a novel by Don DeLillo, that the lighthouse was *uhem* illuminated once more inside my head. As I’ve come to understand, DeLillo is a cultural critic; his novels address society’s many obsessions and explores what roles these obsessions play in our lives, as well as how they define us. Death, technology, consumerism, media, crowds, for instance, these are common motifs DeLillo highlights with excellent vision and irony.

His novel, White Noise, takes a look at these motifs and addresses them in terms of family life and the suburbs (also there’s an Airborne Toxic Event). Here’s what a book cover may look like: (more…)

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Life in the Spiritual Fast Lane

Spiritual fasting. What do you think about it? Does it intrigue you? Personally, the thought of it makes me hungry, a bad sign. Fasting is definitely not my strong suit.

Recently, I read Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse. The second book of Hesse’s I’ve read, and admittedly my first on Buddhism, Siddhartha follows a fictional character (paralleling the real Siddhartha Gautama) who throughout his life searches for oneness and truth.

My upbringing has taught me to read all non-Christian, even non-evangelical, religious material with a filter. This filter acts less like a screen door and more like an actual door. Closed all the time.

As I’ve aged in spirit and body, I’ve come to realize that much can be learned from other religions. We all yearn for God. If a life-long monk wanted to take me out for coffee, or better yet, donuts, then you can bet I would take his offer. I’d probably even have to pay and I would still take his offer. I love donuts. I love talking about God with donuts.

This theoretical monk has spent his life learning to fast, learning to think, learning to be less. I would love to hear his insight, wouldn’t you? Just because religious roads differ, this doesn’t mean travelers can’t bump into each other every now and then. And get donuts.

Consumerism, Buddhism, & Ism-ism

Fasting was never pushed on me. I’m not blaming anyone else for my ignorance towards it, but let’s just say that the culture I grew up in simply didn’t value it. “It’s more of an Eastern thing,” I would hear or, “Just don’t tell any one about it.”

Regardless of how I got here, I’m here now. I believe that Americans have much to gain from learning to fast.

Our eyes have been purchased by the cinema of must-have.

Our hearts foster inward desires over the outward love of Christ.

Our bodies sleep best in a commonplace of complacency.

What if consumerism was just another powerless foe? What if we could break the paradigm? I wonder about a world where Western Christians could chose others before themselves, every day, with every dollar and every minute.

In the book, the young adult Siddhartha wishes to go into business with a merchant. The merchant asks Siddhartha what he can do. Siddhartha replies, “I can think. I can wait. I can fast.”

“… fasting, what good does it do?”

This is my favorite part:

It is very good, sir. If a person has nothing to eat, then fasting is the wisest thing he can do. If, for instance, Siddhartha had not learned how to fast, he would have to accept any service today, whether with you or with someone else, for hunger would force him to do so. But now Siddhartha can simply wait, he knows no impatience, he knows no plight. He can stave off hunger for a long time and he can laugh at it. That, sir, is what fasting is good for.

So what do you think, is it time Westerners start fasting? Can we still have donuts? Since I’m new to this whole thing, I hope to learn one or two things in the comments.

Consumer Zombies on Record Store Day

picstitchRecord Store Day. I participated this last weekend—April 20th, 2013; it was great. My fourth year partaking, this “holiday” has become quite the tradition for me.

I walked away with an Avett Brothers/Randy Travis single, and just barely got my hands on a Bowie 7-inch; that sounds dirty.

What’s that? You don’t know what Record Store Day is? (loser). Let me explain.

It’s a one-day celebration of local record stores. Artists release exclusive, limited vinyls and CDs that can only be sold at mom and pop-local shops. SUCK IT iTunes.

Kids like me eat this stuff up.

We get there early. We line around the block and talk to each other about music. We rush inside and spend way more money than we ever normally would. Our wives make fun of us…

You get the gist.

Record Sales

I didn’t get everything I wanted. In fact, I barely got anything I wanted. This year was insane. Since I’m in San Luis Obispo this year, I lined up at the famous Boo Boo Records. The last few years were in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; people there are just getting around to iPods so you couldn’t expect much from their shops.

Simply, RSD isn’t as big of a deal in Idaho. A few collectors maybe show up. Not many.

Down here, people care about this stuff. Boo Boos gets almost one of every release. That’s unheard of!

My wife dropped me off early so I could get a good spot in line. She left for a Breakfast Buzz Burrito, and I squatted. RSD is kind of more, my thing. Shortly after, the line inflated. People wrapped down the block and curved beyond my line of sight. Luckily, all behind me.

Good timing, I thought. That White Stripes LP rerelease is mine!

Record Hells

Oh what’s that? They’re letting everyone in at the same time? RUN!!!!!

Don’t worry, I thought, maybe they’ll spread the records throughout the store to keep people from swarming in one small area. This should be easy, in and out. 

Nope. Definitely not easy. Almost died.

There was one little bin of records for three hundred little hands. Standing in line was absolutely pointless. I could’ve arrived last and elbowed my way to the front. Before I knew it, I was completely surrounded in hipster hell.

photoHands, elbows, knees, eye-glasses, beards. People yelling. “Give me one of those, bro.” “HAND ME, ME, DUDE.” I looked  behind me to see my wife, white eyed, backing away slowly. I hope to see her again, I thought.

People pushed and pushed. The crowd became bigger and more intense. Worst yet, there was nothing in my hands. White Stripes was gone, duh. The LPs, the good ones, they go fast. What did I want? What was my back up? 

Get your hands in there, I thought. So I pushed back and reached in. The singles, I thought. Go for the singles. I pulled out two that were on my list. The crowd was getting worse. The pressure grew higher. The air tighter. The people. Pushing. Screaming. Fingers reaching. Are these people going to eat me? 

I have got to get out of here!

Good thing too, because I couldn’t. Boo Boo Records has one of the largest shops I’ve ever seen; yet, they placed all their exclusive albums in one small bin near a corner in the back. Thanks guys. There was no way out.

If I knew I was going to be trapped, I would’ve brought a snack. Also, a good thing, these people all were magically sweaty in a matter of minutes.  

The Walking Sales

Needless to say, I lived. Boo Boos could’ve planned the day a little better, but they did give donuts out to those who waiting in line. All is forgiven.

This day made me think a lot about consumerism. I remember being in the middle of that giant crowd and thinking, I don’t really need any of this. It’s not really fun when it gets cut-throat.

Am I just getting older and growing out of the whole “consumerism” thing?

Maybe I’m just a poor sport and need to bring snacks next year. And spike studded shoulder pads. roadwarriors_zps7fc9c0c4

Did anyone else partake in Record Store Day? I’d love to hear some other stories of crazed consumerism.