Stream of Consciousness
To postulate that money rules the world is nothing new. I would like to go further and really look at what this means with respect to people and how we live our lives. It seems to me we are instilling a whole new set of precepts and concepts that are slowly displacing "human nature".
We are, in a way, starting over with our own, man made, instincts (if they can be called that anymore). Telling our nature what its going to be and then living in the bed we've so carelessly made.
There's this game I play sometimes on the internet over at pogo.com. There are hundreds of games you can play there, but the 3-point shooting competition is the only one I've tried. The reason I keep coming back is money (and boredom, to some extent). Money and boredom. I've realized that these two reasons are fundamental building blocks into what we've decided to become innately as human beings.
The game works as follows: While you play, there are certain things you can do within the game to accumulate tickets. Bonus points, basically. But so on you go accumulating tickets very much the same way Chuck E. Cheese's works, only it's all electronic. Once you have a certain number of tickets you can enter raffles for various cash prizes. All the hard work and time spent in front of the computer being online to play at pogo.com is gambled away into a raffle. You are told who wins at the end of the raffle - some email in your Inbox saying 'Sorry play again because RoCkerChikk17 won the $250 raffle this week and you, portocarrero13, did not'. Gambled away your work for a chance at some money. Three point shooting competition is our life.
Money, whether we like it or not, runs life. Gasoline, fuel. Our body needs food to live - a most basic need - and in the context of today's civilized societies you need money to buy food. So we aren't even talking about a deep and meaningful question such as "what is the meaning of life?" No, we needn't go that far. Forget about that - you want to think and ponder what the ultimate meaning of life is? You gotta be alive for that friend. Money = alive.
Do you see these poor, unfortunate, down on their luck souls sitting (sometimes standing) on the soot-stained sidewalks? The men and women with dirty, stinking clothes, unkempt hair, an aura of Vodka enveloping them like that Peanuts character with the dirt all around? See them? They are the bottom feeders of a non-3rd-world country. Urban peasants. They have nothing and are the closest to death on a consistent, day-to-day basis. And what are they doing out on those sidewalks? Pondering what Pascal meant when he said "wretched"? No no no. They want what's left of your $20 bill after you bought the latest Christina Aguilera CD because you heard there is a lyric on track five that supposedly could be interpreted as a vague allusion to group sex.
They want your crumbs, your monetary crumbs. Money. It is what keeps them going. Why? To feed their yearning, be it for alcohol, drugs, or even food. Money keeps you alive out on those sidewalks. Forget about the advanced (trust me it's advanced) rhetoric of "money doesn't buy happiness" or "can't buy me love" etc. etc. It can sure buy you a fucking loaf of bread when your mouth won't open because its too dry and your stomach-growls are heard over your repetitive begging for "some change buddy".
That piece of paper or few coins can keep your ass on this side of whatever spiritual plane you do or do not believe in. Fuck happiness, we can worry about that later, once we find a guaranteed way to maintain our body in proper working order. There can be no arguing this - neither God nor Allah nor Buddha nor Mbuktu will keep you alive if you do not eat. Your body will die. All believers in all the religions (even the Atheists) share a common bond in that they are all human. We will all die.
But so what do we do once we are out of our protective cocoon (for most people I hope) that is home and pre-real-world life? It's called being "on your own" and it implies paying bills, paying rent, going to the supermarket for food, etc. Being on your own means you must become productive. Productive has an artistic meaning - one of creating and getting one's mind out in the form of choice, be it words or pictures or shapes. But the word has been derailed to mean one thing: make money. To do this, some go to college - chill out, relax, party, think about how or what we want to do in order to be productive four years down the road. Basically it's about discovering what you can do for an extended period of time - say eight hours a day for thirty years. So something that is the least annoying, whatever you can withstand the most - and then go out there and get paid for it. For the lucky fortunates that go to and finish college, they can begin to struggle with happiness and what it all means and use their paychecks to buy Prozac to help them deal with these excruciatingly difficult questions. Poor souls.
But so it's pogo.com either way. They work and work and work - eight hours a day typically - collect a paycheck about twice a month, and then gamble away their earnings for a chance at winning the seemingly-legitimate-but-who-really-knows-if-it-is-just-because-everyone-says-it-is prize of happiness. Do the math, you work 40 hours a week for 40 years (if you're lucky) and you live to be about 80. That means you spent around 10% of your life playing over at pogo.com because a job counselor deemed that road to be "productive". And are people happy? I hope at least RoCkerChikk17 is happy.
Gambling. This is how higher level organisms of the non-"got any spare change" variety go about dealing with these privileged questions they have the luck to be able to ponder. Namely, what is life about? Now I'm not a masochist or a vampire-goth-pessimist either (and don't know if that even exists, lets hope not). I know people who find happiness and live it and hey ho good for those special few. But it is pretty evident from simply picking up a newspaper and seeing all the spawns of prescription medicine claiming to help you "be who you really are", to know that the majority of people in this country (this being USA) is not well. Not happy. Something isn't right. Just watch COPS for twenty minutes. People aren't doing so hot out there.
But essentially and at some point we see and come to know of our selfishness. One of the few original elements from our previous (and original?) human nature scheme that is alive and well (although bums seem to stick around for quite a while, so someone must be sharing). Joe Blow looking out for Joe Blow. Well so do I, and it's time to talk about me (finally!). I am through with college. Done. I am also lucky, however. My parents have money and do not have that urge to throw me out sans help and grumble to just "go out and be on your own already" (although in time I'm sure they'd come around). Plus I have an excuse - a surgery that demands I be here at home in Guatemala during this whole time of "unproductivity".
And so college - up to college- I should say, I was on the path I described previously. Looking for my vehicle to a 10% life of gambling. I was browsing the career store, so to speak. But at some point I became aware of myself - painfully aware. The way the birth of Artificial Intelligence has been described will occur at some point in time. I popped out of myself and hovered above the campus. Ants. Directed by a queen somewhere underneath it all, hidden away, enjoying all the perks - we were ants. Ah but so I became aware. Good for me. So what? I still lived in this system. Again, I lay no claims of totality, completeness, or unnecessary generalities. Not everyone is on this path. Not all ants. But according to my environment, upbringing, expectations, etc., 95% of everyone and everything was expected to, in our own "special" way, serve the queen. Now I'm not sure what analogy this queen ant is serving here - but its something like the worn path, greed, money, gambling, capitalism - those things that separate that 95% from the other 5.
This self-awareness means nothing really because I still was in that system for another two years. Going home after college was even worse that just serving the queen - coming from ultra-conservative Guatemala City and all (one parenthesis isn't nearly enough to explain, but if what I've discussed so far sounds merciless and choice-less and overall restrictively boring (which I hope it does - it being the whole point here) then Guatemala is queen³). That is for a whole other depressing essay.
So home - on a temporal basis - was an option. But I decided (as do so many) that the Spider (re-named from queen to spider, spider being more menacing and overall creeps-giving to most people - a big black hairy legged spider) maybe wasn't so bad, and I wanted to try it for a bit. What with everyone else trying it, I might as well try it (this is the same curiosity that tempts many into the pitfalls of cocaine - oh I'll just try it once). So after college I worked. 9 to 5, 8 to 4, and even 7 to 3 (gasp!). After the lackadaisical college schedule of 12 to 2:30 and Beer to Passing Out, this was hard. I was a robot. I was servicing the spider.
Those five months were, in retrospect, awfully unproductive and boring (my creative version of unproductive - notice no quotation marks). But listen to how I would describe it back then to friends or random people at a bar on Fridays.
"Yeah I'm working at Boston.com, you know, with the Globe. Great people, I don't, like, hate going to work or anything. It's easy work. I get paid twelve dollars an hour and I'm saving up a ton of money - don't know for what - but I figure the more I save, the bigger thing/trip/fun/unit of happiness I'll be able to buy you know? Ha ha ha!"
That pretend, a little too loud, "Ha ha ha" to kind of transfer the invisible talking baton to someone else. Oh I had a girlfriend too. So 7 to 3 I work. 2 to 3 relax and let my brain go up from mush to a jello-like firmness (it's better than mush). Then from around 10p.m. it was visiting, arranging to visit, or doing something related to my girlfriend. It was the time in my life I've written the least ever since I started writing (always an indication something isn't right). No brain time. No time.
After a while of catching some flies for the Spider I reached the breaking point. I've always been stubborn, like really stubborn, and that mixed with my utopist hyper-optimism drove me to the point where I had to stop and think for the first time in 5 months: "What am I doing? What do I want to be doing?" I had gone though this stage before, as do all college seniors, and had come to some sort of temporary resolution that had calmed me and made the decision to crawl on the Spider's web a little easier (do not think I don't see a connection I could have exploited there to link Boston.com to web - as in spider web and website - I am ever-linking that type of shit, I'm all over it). And it was the decision to go to grad school (a kind of more specific, less fucking around-no-this-time-I'll-take-it-seriously type thing, methinks). Get my M.F.A. (Master in Fine Arts) in Creative Writing. My way out, if you will.
That belief that we are special and have something unique in each of us (which I know is dumb because I know everyone else feels it also and so should not be able to be an idea I can keep in my head alongside the former but this is how strong it is) that says hey I can write something of value, or of entertainment, or of interest. I can make a living by writing; a glorious realization because it's freedom from the web. The Spider, etc. This non-web, non-ant nor spider-serving gig can allow me to put food on my table. Beautiful, perfect. Nirvana, no? And so I go and ruin my applications by applying to 3 of the top 4 programs in the country. Bad idea.
U of Iowa: Sorry but…
U Virginia: It's not you it's us…
Columbia: You just barely didn't make it…
And my so-called "safety-school"? (How embarrassing now in retrospect because of the quality of the place and because, well, I didn't get in) Emerson College. So I screwed myself out of it by mis-applying. One year of waiting to go and do it again.
So right now I'm bumming around on the money I made in Boston for five months off the Spider. I'm writing as much as I can (which is always a lie every time I say it, I could be writing TONS more) trying to self-polish, if you will (which sounds extremely auto-erotic (which is just a fancy way of saying masturbation-related)). So I guess the five months did do me some good insofar as pushing me to the limit of robotic spider serving enough to realize that I don't want any part of the web (except email thank you very much, and perhaps other unrelated auto-erotic functions) or the Spider.
But here we are in early September, I should be starting grad school. Instead I'm visiting my sister in Chicago, spending money like I have an expected, fixed income, and getting the paperwork ready to go to Paris for four months and improve mon Française. But this time I need to get accepted somewhere. This money I'm sitting on can't go another year like this. I'd be forced back into that perilous world of insects that has been known to kind of reverse the whole A.I. discovery (or do you invent AI?) process. Which would mean I would forget that I am conscious and be shushed in and out of my cubicle any time I'm hit with a vague reminisce of "hold on, this isn't what I wanted". Scary indeed.
So what have I learned? Money - yes- it rules the world. So even though it's tricky, what we have to do is find a way to get paid - to beat the system doing something that in and of itself brings happiness. Writing, expressing, being - in the artistic sense of the word - productive. No more pogo.com. No more gambling, it's too risky. No dabbling in any of that. Instead of living it I'll just write about it.
There. Now, where's my money?