Yesterday something happened which gave me hope that I and others might be able to overcome one of the worst habits imaginable – shopping: I freaked out while walking though a Denver mall to get to a movie.
In retrospect, it may have had a lot to do with the fact that I've been spending a lot of time at home, mostly looking for a job. Nonetheless, I was in a state of sensory overload and disgust at all the stuff practically bulging out of the shops and the signs ordering or begging me to buy stuff I didn't need and would likely never use more than once. When I got to the theater, I sat through a continuous infomercial that was followed by countless previews, such that I felt I had seen three movies before the one I paid to see. Afterwards, I couldn't wait to leave, and believed for the first time that when I finally got work, I would be able to fight off the pressure to spend my earnings on that crap instead of paying off the debt I'd used to buy the barely-more-than-crap that I already own.
When I got home, I did what I often do. I turned on my computer. From that (er, this) expensive box, the Internet showed me a lot of useless crap I could get through the mail, festooning the almost-news and job descriptions I was really interested in reading. Next to my computer was a book I haven't finished yet, which discusses the why and how behind our interactions with each other, our artificial world, and the natural world as part of a larger ecological system that has shaped us as much as we've shaped it. But, as usual, I couldn't resist being exposed to the imaginary world inside the artificial world that is killing the natural world on which it all depends. It probably counts for something that I at least had a similar reaction to the ads on the screen that I had to their cousins in the mall: Yuck!
Later that night I got a headache while working on the sequel to my novel, which is being informed by the insights I've gained since being laid off last year. I interpreted it as both a reaction to spring pollen and chronic stress about both my future and the future of the world. Just as one of my book's characters was wondering if she could keep up with her husband and his pursuit of threats she could barely fathom, I was wondering if I could ever reclaim a sense of security in a society that is tearing itself apart. The ads insisting on my getting more stuff, and the job announcements promising high stress and heavy workloads so I could make it possible, effectively mocked such a desire, and were actively recruiting people to make sure it would be forever out of reach of everyone.
Luckily, I had cold medication to push through the symptoms and get some sleep, so I could process it today with a fresh perspective in front of the expensive little box that I bought in another mall when my defenses weren't anywhere near so high.