Allow me a tinfoil hat moment. I don’t always sound this crazy.
To this point in my life, I have had the privilege of freedom bestowed upon me by my circumstances: student life, supportive parents, and flexible part time jobs. With this freedom, I have been fortunate to travel to my heart’s content, going from town to town between ranges and valleys and coasts until they all blend together into one indistinct concept: a collection of people gathered around eateries and gas stations, surrounded by ways to distract themselves from the relentless passing of time.
Ranges become like any other: they have no trees, then they have trees, and then eventually no trees again, if they’re lucky to be tall enough.
Valleys become like any other: they are apt to collect farms and bake from the warmth of the sun. Occasionally, they’re the proud hosts of rivers, out of which civilization emerges.
Coasts have water, and then sand, and then not-sand.
Everything becomes a mirror of everything else. Differences are melted down into trivial variations within the same concept. The challenge is identifying the unique spirit within each nondescript feature. I accept that challenge in my life. It is my mission to discover why one grassy hill is distinct from another grassy hill, to unlock some inner mystique we as humans are not quite yet able to perceive. Perhaps that’s how one discovers enrichment out of banality, whether perceived reality is imagined or not.
Ah, such is the luxury of time and idleness.
Like most of America, I have since acquired a forty-hour work week. It’s time I pull my weight.
My time is paid by the hour, as if each passing hour of my life can be bribed into nonexistence by this nice little idea called “money.” Money has no inherent value. It has value because we imagine it to have value. If society were to collapse, it wouldn’t even be useful as toilet paper. But I believe in money, and so, for some reason, I feel inclined to scratch away the precious hours of my only existence in order to receive it so that I can extend that existence a little further into time.
I am in the prime of my life. I have never been healthier, and each day I learn something new is a day I know more than I ever have. And yet, I sit at a computer for forty hours every week, half of my waking life, earning money, so that for the remaining half, I might hope to use that money to distract myself from the fact that this is my only life to live, and I’m pissing it away one paycheck at a time.
Perhaps I should be toiling the soil. But those jobs have already been taken by machines.
You could call this journal entry: the Selfish Grievances of a Spoiled Millennial. I understand if you find me repulsive, but please allow me to continue.
Why do we let ourselves be bribed into nonexistence by this imaginary force called “money”? Because it allows us to buy and do things, to perpetuate our life so we can continue feeding into its cycle? We live in a world where machines can allow us an unprecedented amount of leisure. And yet we use those machines not for leisure but as weapons in an arms race for capital. Why do we let this happen?
While I sit here for forty hours per week, I often think about projects I’d like to do or businesses I’d like to start: a Polish food cart, a coffees and copies store for writers and musicians, a chamber music ensemble, a travel guide, etc. etc. They all involve some sort of tangible product or a connection other human beings, and revolve around some sort of passion I’ve developed. But I don’t do anything proactive towards those projects. Why? Why do I allow myself to restlessly toil away at something for which I have no passion? Is it the comfort of knowing that for every hour of me that dies, I get a small amount of money? Because I’m afraid that, with a Polish food cart, I won’t be able to buy my future kid the newest PlayStation, and he’ll bitch and moan about growing up in a poor family with a deadbeat father who could’ve made better financial decisions?
There’s a risk involved in projects and enterprise. There is no risk in a wage-earning job. It’s really easy to sit here discontent with life and do nothing about it. It’s a lot harder to take the gamble and make life worth living.
It’s as if society is designed to placate us, as if we’re whiney, needy children, and the structure of society provides us just enough to keep us distracted from our restlessness but not enough to make us entirely content with our lives. If we were unhappier, we’d be moved to action. If we were happier, then we’d cease to need distractions, and therefore cease to perpetuate the finely tuned mechanical organism that keeps us at its mercy. Society needs us to exist at an unhappy medium, as cells in its body. It’s designed to prevent any actual social upheaval. We just don’t have the will or emotional strength to cast ourselves against it as long as it lets us have pretty things. In this way, it can continue to survive through us as a parasite, and we are unable to kill it, not because we don’t want to, but because we don’t want to enough.
I earn a paycheck.
I buy food. I pay rent.
I earn a paycheck.
I buy food. I pay rent. I upgrade my cable package.
Sports. Go Team!
I earn a paycheck.
I buy food. I pay rent. I go to a concert.
Life event initiated. Upload pictures of concert.
I earn a paycheck.
I buy food. I pay rent. I spend the weekend at the beach.
Satisfaction of nature. Upload pictures of beach.
Etc. Etc. Etc. Etc. Etc. Etc.
This is a normal, acceptable life. But what if I were to say, “No. I’ve decided I don’t want to slave away for the Organism. I’m going to be homeless. I’m going to eat trash scraps. I’m going to sever ties with plumbing and language.” Suddenly, I’m a lunatic. I’m dysfunctional. I’m a psychopath. Because I don’t believe my only existence can be priced by the hour? And even then, I’d be lying to myself, because even those trash scraps would be produced by the Organism. There is no real escape.
Cells that cease to function for the Organism are removed as cancers, banished into prisons or mental institutions, or marginalized on street corners if the institutions no longer have room for them.
We are born into this world from a void, and we accept its rules as something inherent to our existence, something that is, and something that cannot be something else. The Organism is a foreign body to which we learn to adapt, but we adapt early enough such that we don’t believe there can be any other reality, or any other Organism. But we did not choose our Organism. Our Organism chose us. We are foreigners in the only land we know. Perhaps that’s the source of discontent: somewhere deep down, we feel like we innately belong to another system. But we don’t know what that system is or what it looks like. The system we’re in just seems so permanent, so omnipresent.
My protest is hardly original. The Matrix. Fight Club. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. American Beauty. Catcher in the Rye. They’re all the same story: Humanity vs. the Machine.
But is there an alternative? Is there any sense in rebelling? Is the Organism too strong? Do we actually live in the Best of All Possible Worlds? I’m not sure. Maybe there is no alternative. Maybe resistance against the Organism is the alternative itself – both the ends and the means, and therefore we are at mercy to the Organism for providing in us a goal, an opposition onto which we can delusionally cling self-righteously so that our lives have the illusion of a greater meaning beyond just being a part of the vicious cycle of earning, spending, and being distracted until we die.
And yet, there is so much I don’t understand. Perhaps one day the Organism will reveal itself to me as a beautiful thing. An elegant system worthy of my respect and servitude. I can only hope this is a possibility.