Sunday, June 26, 2011

When Books Change Your Life

It's interesting how a random fictional story can have a major impact on your life and point of view.

Not that books never affect me. They do, very much. I usually spend the next several hours after a particularly great book just reviewing the entire thing in my head and wondering at its awesomeness.

But this time it was something very different. Something that hasn't happened to me before.

I was re-reading the Hunger Games. The books were awesome enough the first time. But this second time through, I really got into it. I mean, I already know the characters and what's going to happen, and I spent the whole time covering my face and wishing that it will change. Sadly, it didn't. Things still happened, and I still cried.
About ten minutes later, in my after-book stupor, I didn't really know what to do with myself as I replayed the book over and over in my head. I hadn't had dinner, so even though I wasn't super hungry, I got in the car and started driving. I didn't feel like having anything I passed, so I ended up at Walmart, where I bought a few groceries.

As I drove there, I began to be impressed by the sheer absurdity of traffic. How people get so mad at other people, or get so obsessed about their precious cars. But I'd thought about that kind of stuff before, so it wasn't new.

But when I walked in through the door of Walmart, I was suddenly hit with a wave of disgust.

I casually walked past four or five drink machines, two crane machines, and a red box, and the commercialism almost overwhelmed me. The flashy labels. The lights. The totally unnecessary products.

Then I entered the store itself. Rows and rows of food, piled up for anyone's taking. Dozens of racks with shirts and pants and jackets and socks. Aisles filled with the most advanced toys a kid could ask for. Video games, movies, cell phones, cameras, TVs, laptops.

I felt like a Capital yuppie.

All I needed were a few clueless people who were selfish, arrogant, decorated and clothed according to fashions, and oblivious to the bounty around them... oh wait, they were there too. Hundreds of them, all milling about and complaining about things, or filling their carts without even a thought to the availability of so much.

I'm not saying that I've never realized things before. Like the fact that I take so much for granted, or that people over-emphasize things that aren't important. It happens to every halfway decent person occasionally. But it never hit me on such a deep, extremely real level before.

I was legitimately disgusted.

There really aren't any words that convey the depth of my revulsion for the society in which I found myself. Suffice it to say that I was shocked in a way that I have never been shocked before.

I was only grateful that I wasn't wandering in a huge city like New York or Chicago. I wouldn't have been able to live with myself if I had to face all the neon signs and billboards and the general swarm of humanity.

This picture would normally look cool to me. Right now it's making me feel a little sick. It's so Capital.

Most of this will probably pass. Things like it always do. And I'll be back at walmart or target or shopko again, going about the usual mindless shopping. But I don't think I'll be able to forget it completely. Somewhere in the back of my head it will sit, reminding me of what's real.

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