Higher Passions and the Commodification of Everything

There are times when I feel like I’m sleepwalking; during these times there’s an undercurrent of doubt, dread, and remorse. At any moment I worry that some circumstances will bring all of this underlying tension to the surface, causing a major freak-out. I’ll begin to question and doubt everything. “My life has been a waste,” I’ll think. “There’s nothing left for me on this earth.” “Will I ever be happy?” Pressure builds up over time and then boils over. Underneath it all, there’s a voice, a revulsion, screaming, pounding: “This is not what I want.”

But right now is not one of those times. I’m on an upswing, because I have dedicated myself to it. No matter what the cost, I’m going to do what I want.

There’s a dichotomy we live out every day between what society wants from you and what you know is best for yourself. We live in a time where technology has made all facets of existence marketable; as a result, there’s nowhere to turn without being bombarded by images of a prefabricated lifestyle—that’s the lifestyle that Bud Light wants you to live, the lifestyle that Pitbull sings about, the lifestyle that you think those cool people from high school have when you lurk around their Facebook page. There’s a disconnect between real life and this lifestyle of opulence. “How come I’m not in a club with Shakira right now??” We might envy that celebrity lifestyle and attempt to chase it down, spending our money on the illusory ideal which has been marketed to us. What’s worse, though, is when we actually find ourselves on that path of cultural acquisition, gettin’ it—with a girlfriend, a new phone, and a group of friends who love to go out drinking—and then find out the lifestyle doesn’t make us happy. What the hell? Is there something wrong with me?

I’m here to say don’t worry about it. It’s all trash, after all. Living the life you see in commercials is not the final rubric of happiness; in the end, it all depends on YOU. Life is what you make it, of course. Are you living up to your own expectations? Are you doing the things that make you feel good? Your own inner law is the only judge you must answer to.

But before we get all inspirational, more about how everything sucks. I’d like to examine the ways in which the average person is marketed to these days, and discuss why it’s bad. My dad said, a long time ago, that he deleted his Facebook when it became impossible to “like” something without subscribing to their page. At first I thought that wasn’t a big deal, since only silly things got left out anyways. If you were all about “putting three pea-sized drops of mustard on a ham sandwich,” then that’s too bad, because there’s no page for something as silly as that. But I could still “like” cool things like rock climbing, Futurama, or even “Being Weird.” But the making of these pages, I think, was a huge step in the agenda of Facebook: the commodification of human experience. Each part of the huge, indistinguishable continuum of human experience had now been chopped up into tiny bite-sized parts. Sleeping, eating chicken, and friendship were now on the same level as Family Guy, Star Wars, iPhones. And now that experience had become a product, individual experiences were now marketable. Facebook has instilled in us the desire to obtain life experiences in a capitalistic way, in the same way that one buys a new couch or piece of artwork and shows it off at a party. Admit that you don’t think of “being in a new relationship” as a milestone—here’s 934 likes, tiny internet currency. Don’t you feel special?

If I sound jaded, it’s because I am. There is no feeling quite like the exquisite absurdity when, while searching for music in a spell of depression, one is bombarded by the unfettered optimism of a Michelob Light commercial.

Excuse me while I go out and live in the woods for awhile.

I am trying to purge as much of this shit from my life as possible. I know for a fact that drinking Michelob Ultra isn’t the key to a rewarding life. The powers that be are trying to take control of my habits, desires, and yearning for something more substantial and turn it all into profit. They are swindling us. So why should I continue wanting the idealized Facebook life when I know it’s false?

This is where the inspirational stuff comes in. If Time-Warner or Coca-Cola isn’t the judge of a rewarding life, then who is? That’s right—it’s YOU, my friend. It’s alllllllll you. More than Oprah, more than the latest spiritual guru, more than Jesus. You decide what’s worth going after in life, how you’ll spend your time and money, and what kind of attitude, which perspectives, what kind of love you’re going to bring to the table.

I want to inspire a wave of individualism across the world, and make people realize that they’re so much more than a cog in a money-making machine. Life is staggeringly beautiful; we have so much freedom and so many opportunities in front of us at any given time it’s mind-boggling. But it’s hard to see this when we are constantly annoyed by media which keep our minds focused on credit card debt, on the false idea of the life we are supposed to want. Instead of watching the inner vision come into focus, we only see a white picket fence.

So here’ s my manifesto: anything unhealthy, anything that undermines my sense of freedom, goes. I am the one who chooses how I live. Facebook? Gone. Drugs? Gone. TV? …What’s TV? I have signed up for scuba classes, to make a long-term dream of mine into a reality. The ocean has been near me my whole life, and I’ve never ventured in. I’m going home to see my family, and as soon as scuba classes are over in October, I’d like to quit my job and move somewhere else. Drastic? Maybe. But the bottom line is that I don’t feel satisfied in the place I am now. Should I stay in Santa Cruz, the lifestyle I see stretching out before me into the future is not the path I want.

I turned 24 two days ago. My Facebook account was deactivated, and I kept it that way. I only got calls and texts from the people who are the absolute most dearest to me. I missed all of the congratulatory messages and the “miss you homie”s that would have come with a proper birthday celebration, but that’s OK. That’s just where I am right now. It’s not worth polluting my mind with a thousand Ice Bucket Challenge videos or R.I.P. Robin Williams posts. I don’t care about that shit. That ain’t my life.

I’m a man now, and the difference between a man and a boy is that a man is sure of himself. A man knows his own power, and where a boy would get frustrated at the circumstances around him, wondering “whatever shall I do” and blaming the system, a man sets out to change it. A man prioritizes, and spends his time and energy where he sees fit. A man is honest with himself, where a boy is confused.

Sometimes when I’m evaluating a course of action, I ask which part of myself wants a particular thing. High or low—what part of yourself are you acting with? I want to look at porn and jack off, yeah, but more often than not that’s the lowest part of myself I’m acting with. That’s the reptilian brain. Being in a fulfilling relationship, where sexual desire is integrated with spiritual union, is the highest activation of this faculty. I am committed to a life of higher passions; that is to say, a life consisting of the highest manifestation of my desires.

I figure that the life offered by the powers-that-be is the easiest way out. They offer you a promise of a life that will be effortless, lovely, and fulfilling in every way. It’s the American Idol narrative: after enough hard work and following your heart, and after you pay your dues and find a mentor, you can eventually achieve your dreams and have everything you want. After this climax and fame comes the easy retirement: here are people to take care of you, to drive you around, take care of your finances, make sure you don’t get too drunk, and a perfect lover to look after your heart so you won’t have to. We are a nation of lotus-eaters at this point in time: we buy into this vision lock, stock, and barrel, and work the 9-5 for decades in order to ensure this carefree, dreamy vacation for ourselves and the ones around us, trying ever harder to maintain the delusion as death comes knocking at our door with the final revelation.

This is the easy life. This is the lowest possible culmination. It is not to be had—it is trash. Having all of your shitty desires instantly gratified will turn you into Kim Kardashian, and you don’t want that.

My ideal life is hard. My ideal life takes everything I want—grace, athleticism, love, artistry—and drives these virtues all the way up into the sky, into the stratosphere, where they become rarefied and beautiful. I will not have liposuction done; I will sweat and cry and eat like my body is a power plant until I achieve the physique I want, and I will know that it has been my doing, and that I didn’t cop out, cut corners, or sell myself short at any point during the process. The results will speak for themselves; I know that the only trophies worth having are the ones that must be fought for. And in order to do this, in order to fight this fight, there has to be an utter rejection of all the easy-outs that would seduce you along the way.

***

I’ve revisited this after initially writing it, and now it’s two months later. As it stands, I’ve made good on some of the promises laid forth. Some I figure were too harsh. Facebook is a mixed bag. I hate finding myself checking it twenty times a day, or whatever, but it’s also great to reach out to all my friends. I reactivated because it felt like I was hiding from people; and anyway, what good is a message that nobody reads?

The main reason why I neglected to post this is because I thought that the rejection of all these silly things would be alienating. Now I know that it’s not—I don’t have to be a hermit in order to speak out against the system. Don’t have to abandon all my friends in order to acknowledge that some relationships aren’t worth having. Don’t have to leave my town just because I know I want to travel…. I don’t have to reject myself just because I know some things are worth rejecting.

The time felt right to share; this has been weighing on my mind for forever now. Here’s something I know I must do, and so here we are, doing it.

Thanks as always.

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1 Response to Higher Passions and the Commodification of Everything

  1. The Enlightened One says:

    You’re welcome

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