Needless Acceleration

Something happened on Sunday afternoon that was just…traumatic. I was forced to go somewhere that I hate. That I loathe. A place that sucks the life force right from my poor, defenseless body. An evil of homogeneous, thoughtless consumerism that overwhelms the All Spark I have fought so valiantly to defend.

I had to go to the local shopping mall.

It went down like this: Karen is a devoted follower of the social tradition of sending cards for birthdays and anniversaries. August is a big month for all of the above in our family, and thus the monthly card-shopping expedition (I think we would make up a noticeable portion of Hallmark’s yearly profit if you put us on a graph) was overdue. The only Hallmark store open, as the twisted fates who mock me would have it, was in the local shopping mall. And it was there Karen directed that we would go.

Into the valley of death rode…well, the two of us, at least.

Okay, so perhaps that’s a trifle melodramatic, but I really am left with bad taste in my mouth after a few minutes in a shopping mall. I suppose I do my best to refrain from paying attention to consumer trends in most areas, so I’m always a bit surprised when I see how shamelessly advertising and marketing trends take advantage of the unsuspecting, preying on natural human tendencies in order to bait you into buying their product, convincing you that you need it when, a vast majority of the time, you don’t. Any shopping mall or department store is proof that what is legal is frequently unethical.

But, I digress.

When I was young, my mother used to lament that Valentine’s day candy was available in January. That Easter candy was on the shelves soon thereafter. I agreed, and I understood her point…that we hadn’t had time to enjoy the holiday that had just passed…but it wasn’t exactly a pet peeve that I shared with her. Lately, I’ve shared a bit of concern over rushing into the Holidays, but even that was a bit of an isolated event.

Sunday afternoon, however, I walked by the windows of a store that was displaying Halloween decorations. I couldn’t help but ponder that we’re still in August, the time of year that most of us are on vacation, enjoying beaches and pools, or settling back into the routine of the upcoming school semester. We’re far, far away from October, ladies and gents…almost as far, far away as that other galaxy was.

Now, at first blush, there isn’t anything really problematic about this, only annoying. So, if it isn’t a pet peeve for you, you go on with life, desensitized by years of observing it become earlier and earlier (I wonder if we’ll see Halloween merchandise for sale after Independence Day, next year?). This is one of those times, though, when I think there is a negative impact from this. We’re a fast-paced culture. We’re getting faster everyday. In order to maximize sales, and move efficiently from one period of sales profit to the next, corporations market early. The problem is that this pushes us to think about what is coming, and robs us of the necessary reflection on where we are. We can’t pause to think, to appreciate, to fully inhabit this moment.

There’s room for a chicken-or-the-egg debate, here: is our culture rushing from one thing to another because of corporate marketing and cheap mind-tricks (marketing Jedi from that other galaxy, perhaps?), or are we marketing this way because our culture is rushing?

I think we’re left shallow if we’re only focused on what is coming. The problem is that there’s precious little about the future that we can influence at all, and time spent attempting to perfect our uncertain future is time that we aren’t slowing down to be with loved ones, to enjoy a good book, to appreciate what we have instead of thinking about what we hope we will have at some point. I’m especially troubled by the fact that we teach history extremely poorly in America, as well. If we deny ourselves of our past as well as our present, we’ll be hollow shapes rushing forward into things we don’t even yet understand far too quickly…things that we’ll be unable to understand because we won’t have paused long enough to gain a referent. Without the necessary knowledge and experience to prepare us, we’re bound to make a complete mess of what we rush into.

I don’t want to think about Halloween, yet. I don’t even want to think about Autumn. I’m still enjoying the Summer, and I’m content with that. Without today, then tomorrow loses its meaning. There’s a lot to be said for the journey as well as the destination.

Photo Attribution: Sougent Harrop

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