Sunday, November 9, 2003

better living through capitalism

Right now, as I am contemplating this day, the past couple of them, I am sipping a cup of hot chocolate that came in a value pack of 16 or so packets that I bought for three and something dollars. As I was sipping down the warm hot chocolate, I could not but smugly think to myself: This was a very wise purchase, this hot chocolate.

Even though my Catholic upbringing and education at New College have tried to instill in me an awareness that getting excited about consumer purchases should be a bad thing, I cannot but help rejoicing when I make wise purchases. It gives me a special thrill to make unnecessary purchases with money earned from my low wage job.

Two days ago, I bought a discman and this was also a wise purchase. I have been hesitant about purchasing a portable music player because I thought that instead of distracting myself, of tuning out my surroundings, I should try my best to engage with them, to notice the sounds, to be open to the conversation of strangers. But the sounds are noise, are not usually more than screeching subway cars or traffic, or indistinguisable voices, and the conversations with strangers just were not happening, and now I have a discman, and I think that it actually makes me more attuned to my surroudings. I am more comfortable. I walk slower and take in the visuals, thinking of what a good film shot a particualr street scene would be, how perfectly it would correspond to the piece of music that I am listening to. My mood is made more steady because of the steady music, rather than as erratic as all the usually curt interactions I had with fellow pedestrians tended to make it. This evening after I got off the subway and was walking home to Nico's Chelsea Girl, people were walking right behind me at the same pace and normally such a thing would have made me feel awkward, made me feel like I should either speed up or slow down, but tonight, the uncomfortable feeling of closeness was not experienced because I couldn't hear their footsteps or their breathing, all I heard was Nico, and I walked at the exact same pace, so comfortable in my own little bubble. They soon overtook me and it was a young father with a boy of around six or so. The father was walking fast, or at least faster than the boy could keep up with, and the boy would skip or run to catch up with his father, only to fall behind again and have to skip to catch up again. And I watched these boy with such fascination, and I attribute this to my wise purchase of the discman, of how to the soundtrack of Nico, this sight took on an even more privleged beauty.

And if a purchase can make my life more beautiful, than more power to hot chocolate and discmans. Life is nice. I am thinking more and more so that beauty is the goal, to live a life of beauty and to notice the beauty in things. That it is a pretty simple task, one that gives such a pure happiness when realized, its just that there are some many hindrances and obstacles to this task. The amount of ugliness in the world is sometimes mind-boggling, that there are many attitudes out there that are doing their best to stomp on beauty. This boy at my work, Will, really has the ugliest attitude of anyone in recent memorey that I have encountered. He is so bitter and cyncial about every topic that we discuss. The prayer of St. Francis of Assisi: "Lord, let me be an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred let me sow love. . . Where there is darkness, light ... Where there is depair, hope." This prayer was on a bookmark and I was talking about what a positive message it was. He said that it was not. This prayer about spreading love and hope not a positive message because of its Christian associations. We jumped to various other topics throughout the night, all of us Strand employees, hanging out in the back corner instead of working. Rock and roll, MTV's trying to encourage political awareness, the Gossip, Gary Null - and to everything, Will would exclaim how horrible this or that was, tacking on to just about everything the adjective "banal." Now if "banal" is the adjective that you most use to describe things than something is wrong with your way of looking at the world. He is a force of negativity that I am constantly battling in the struggle for beauty, to realize the beauty in things, in MTV or whatever. So ugly people can stomp all that they want now, stomp, stomp, stomp and try to get me to notice, but I'll have my headphones on and will be noticing the beautiful, the magic things that sometimes get obscured by all the ugly people screaming, "Look at me! Look at me!"

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