Monday, July 1, 2013

So Much, So Little

Hold the Door
I'm always amazed at the way in which others respond to delivery people: not the delivery guy who's bringing your a long-awaited package, but the delivery guy who's struggling to open the door while balancing one-too-many packages on his hand truck.

What I notice is how rarely a bystander or passerby will stop to hold the door for him or how others will even pass through the door that he's attempting to open as though he were holding it for them. It seems strange to me because my first inclination is always to run up and hold the door for the delivery guy and I've always assumed that inclination to be the common one.

It's not.

I used to think this phenomenon was limited to delivery people wearing uniforms like UPS and FedEx employees. However, I've noticed that it also occurs with mothers young children struggling with strollers and carriages, and with musicians wrestling speakers and amplifiers.

The other night I played at a place where the band entered through the same front door used by all the patrons. I got there early and set up my gear. As I plugged in my last cable, I looked out the window and saw that the bass player and drummer had just pulled up outside. I ran outside to help them load in.

Carrying a bass speaker under one arm and a bass drum under the other, I tried to negotiate the double glass doors that led from the sidewalk into the club. I wedged the bass drum against against door jam and then leaned into it to keep it from falling as I let go of it and reached for the door handle. I couldn't quite reach the handle, so I grabbed the drum and repositioned it to give me a better position and leverage.

As I juggled the drum, the speaker and the door, a couple guys stood inside talking to one another and watching me through the glass. Neither made a move to open the door. When I finally got the door open and made my way through, I had to say, "Excuse, me", before either watcher made room for me to pass. The one who moved offered me an annoyed glare before stepping back just enough to let me pass by.

Last week, in Chicago, I had dinner with several guys each of whom had played music professionally. When I shared my juggling experience, they all nodded in sympathy, each having had similar experiences. This phenomenon is multiregional.

Conspicuous Consumption
I've come to realize that most adults are first and foremost, consumers. They spend little time creating or inventing or building; they spend most of their time consuming, planning to consume, reliving their consumption and telling others about it. Even their productive times (from baking to painting to building) can be forms of consumerism, rote activities based on recipes, not creative expressions of something inside.

Most adults are conspicuous in their consumption. When you ask them what they've been up to or what they're working on, answers include everything from television shows and movies watched  to trips and renovations planned to restaurants visited and the foods consumed there. When you ask them about what they've actually done outside of consuming, they look at  you funny as if what you've asked makes no sense at all (even after both brief and elaborate forms of explanation.)

"What do you mean, 'What have I done?" I've already told you; I had this wonderful meal at thus and such and visited these amazing ruins in there-and-then and then watched an amazing performance by who's-he-wit."

They're lives are so consumption oriented that no other mode exists.

What's pervasive conspicuous consumption got to do with holding doors?

I've heard people talk about television as being mind-numbing. People often watch TV to escape reality (even for just a little bit.) Those escapes are so media rich, the plots so easy to see, that little is left to the imagination. The mind goes numb as the viewer drifts into pure consumption.

When in the mode of pure consumption, there is little awareness left for anything else. We lose awareness, we lose consciousness. The more time spent in consumption, the less aware we become. The less aware we are, the less frequently we hold doors for struggling delivery guys, moms and musicians.

What's your consumer/producer ratio?

Happy Monday,

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