Yesterday I had to drive to the store to get a light-bulb. It was daytime, so I drove to the store to get a light-bulb for my stove. My stove has a black glass range whose demarcations are impossible to see unless a light shines upon them. The light from the kitchen was not enough to let me see which dial corresponded with which heated plate sandwiched in the range top. Also, while cooking, I sometimes enjoy gazing upon the color of a long-simmering dish to decide whether it has reached the desired flavor, so I need good lighting.
So I drove to the store in the daytime to get a light for my stove. I found the light, paid for it along with some other sundries, and I approached the large automatic doors at the front of the store. One door said “exit” and the other said “enter”. For a moment I got confused. Was I choosing to enter, or was I choosing to exit? What was inclusive, what was exclusive? I thought, when I am in this store, I am outside the place where it is necessary to have lights for the stove. When I am outside, I am where it is unnecessary to need a foundry for the element of the bulb and the threaded metal hickey used to screw the bulb into the socket. When I am outside, I don’t need out-dated light sources. I don’t need the factory where the bulb was made. I don’t need the company’s permit to erect the structure to sell the bulb. I don’t need the vacation accrual that makes management sweat. I don’t need the sophisticated diagnostic robotic systems to absorb the massive flow of units needed to sell. I don’t need to find a technical way to destroy community’s water supply from fracking the ground to suck out and process the gas to power the factory, my car, the creation of all the manufactured plastics in the interior of my vehicle, the asphalt dug from the hills, the arsenic flowing into the creeks and rivers from the forgotten slag heaps.
Every time I go to the store to buy something as silly as a stove light I am accompanied by an entourage of causality. The act masks the greater web of needs and energy flows to keep this point-of-purchase possible. I am totally overwhelmed by the impact of my actions. If I spend the better part of the day staring at the sky, not even requiring the electrons upon my LCD screen to vibrate to levels to where photo-voltaic processes illuminate the liquid crystals dug from the mountains of slave children…so I can see if this post gets any views, I realize the arbitrary silliness of human desire, and yet.
And yet I must feed my family. If i didn’t have electricity, I would need to chop wood and carry water. And after I ate and scrubbed the pot with sand, I would need to chop wood and carry water.
So, when I was looking at the ‘exit’ and ‘enter’ signs above the large automatic doors whooshing back and forth, I was wondering if the store was the exit from a more sustainable way of living. I had exited the happiness of a simple world when I ‘entered’ the store, the mask of desires upon which our economy was sliding inexorably towards dissolution and obsolescence. When I looked at the signs, I had to choose with my heart the way, say, some people choose to sing, with all my heart. I chose to pass through the point of egress marked “enter”, going upstream through a current of people streaming around me from the parking lot towards the shopping buggy corral. I needed to ‘enter’ the world. Beyond that Shinto gate of my soul was the lovely moment when and where I floated in the universe, truly in the universe, in a place and time where I felt like I belonged, solid, with reliable clockwork mechanisms like an exquisitely crafted clock with its perfect cascade of gears and ratios. I wanted to enter a greater world. I wanted to exit my petty life, to leave the past, to fly from desire like an ember spit from a great blast of lightning and catch the forest aflame, to lick the sky with my orange, baleful eye.
But no, I like trees. The cogs of my brain spin with broken teeth. I lose confidence in a drowning of mixed metaphor and salty clichés. An ocean of doubt. I want to climb the snowflakes to Mt. Olympus and gaze upon the placid waters of time, to dip a finger where needed and cast a ripple of providential goodwill upon the troubled trek of our history. At the same time, all I wanted to do was make some hummus, play Diablo III and check my email every ten minutes in the hopes that someone responded to my application, grow a pair and seek further rejection, throw myself against that which I hated, cruel fate.
On another level, recognizing my basic contrarian nature, I had to laugh – silently, otherwise they’ll know andthey’ll capture, torture and kill you, you fool, and you’ll never find Frankenstein – at the existential anxiety generated by such a simple task . I needed to complete a household chore, and yet, I bore the weight of humanity upon my shoulders. Heavy is the crown in the confederacy of dunces. Understanding the process and consequence of my desired situation makes the “environmental impact” permeate my very thoughts, as though there was a biological and semantic power plant fighting off an army of sartorial picketers offering surrender to reason and sustainable, logical solutions. I loathe my condition.
“The increasing desolation of nature, the exhaustion of resources, the uneasiness and disintegration of the human spirit, all have been brought about by humanity’s trying to accomplish something.”
– Masanobu Fukuoka
I was recently laid off. I have a family. I’m falling apart with worry. How will I provide? I was reading a book about labor struggle, lay-offs and strikes, when I get the call… taking a break from archiving 2013 records, mundane end-of-the-week work, humming an old PIL tune. Shit happened way up the food chain and caught everyone by surprise. Hundreds of people got the boot. Tens of millions of dollars in revenue cut off light flicking a switch. Boom, I’m working in a room, and someone comes by and flicks off the light and shuts the door. I’m groping in the darkness. It’s difficult not to blame oneself.
It’s difficult not to want to understand, to even forgive the people destroying my life, to rid myself of anger and bitterness, to forgive and forget…forget that kids need food, housing, to know that mom and dad are good people who need to work to earn a living. To know that they care.
To liberate one’s oppressors is to be free. I don’t want the light-bulb but I need the light-bulb. I’m hungry.
To quote Ignatius J. Reilly –
“…I doubt very seriously whether anyone will hire me.’
What do you mean, babe? You a fine boy with a good education.’
Employers sense in me a denial of their values.’ He rolled over onto his back. ‘They fear me. I suspect that they can see that I am forced to function in a century I loathe.
I implore Fortuna to place upon the wheel a destiny that includes us all. Please, someone fucking hire me this week before I go crazy – oh, too late. I need money to take my kids to see the ocean, that great mirror of the abyss, the nothingness from which we’ve sprung, stars falling from our eyes like tempest-tossed seas dashed upon the rocks of so on and so forth.
“I have lived on the lip
of insanity, wanting to know reasons,
knocking on a door. It opens.
I’ve been knocking from the inside.”