Living on the fake plastic earth: It wears me down

I am watching you!

The King.

I love Burger King chicken sandwiches. Ever since the noun tendercrisp came into existence I was hooked. It just all works together. Recently, with my commute to class, I find myself occasionally stopping at burger king for a tasty morsel of fried chicken goodness. My good friend Mike is also a fan of their cheap double cheeseburgers, so when we hang out, there is a good chance I will end up at Burger King. The three times I have been to Burger King, twice on my own, and once with Mike, they asked me to pull ahead and wait while my food was prepared. Now, this is something I normally frown upon because I know the employees are only trying to make it look like they got customers through the drive through quicker, but these past three times, something totally different dawned on me. All three times the employee at the drive-through said the same thing:

“I am sorry sir, but we are making the chicken fresh. Could you please pull up and we will bring it out when it’s ready.”

Now, let us forget the half question turned into command at the end and focus on what is most important and revelatory in this statement. This man was apologizing that my food was being made fresh. It was wrong of the store to make my food fresh. There is something deeply disturbing about this statement. Now, I know that you can get all caught up in syntax and perhaps his wording was just off, but I started to think about it and I realized that this is not the norm. It is abnormal in our society to get food that is cooked fresh. As I sat there, waiting for my food to be made, people behind me got impatient. I received many nasty looks and hand gestures as impatient customers were forced to drive around me. Now, I am going to set aside the fact that even if this was a problem, it was not my fault in any way, other than I ordered food that was not pre-made garbage. I will set that aside to focus on the much bigger problem: The store clerk was right to be apologetic. Everyone around me was getting angry that I was waiting. It seemed that I should have been angry. But, I wasn’t. I wasn’t angry because I know that fresh food is worth the wait. It was late at night, I had nowhere to go. I was actually happy that my food would be fresh, because that meant it would be good. But as the clerk and the other customers showed, I live in a culture where that kind of thought is not acceptable. We cannot wait for our food to be made fresh. We expect to pull up to the drive through, make our order, and by the time we are done paying, we want our food in our hands so we can drive away and eat. Waiting is an anomaly. The stores are not even set up for waiting. Normally if you have to wait, you are forced to be stuck in an awkward place where your care is barely not in the way, but everyone still thinks you are.  The system in the store is even set up for speed. Cars are not supposed to stay at the window for more than a minute, which is why I was forced into that awkward place at all. All of this leads me to only one conclusion:

We have sacrificed fresh, real food on the altar of impatience and convenience.

And what was it I was waiting for? Over processed chicken sandwiches and a burger with cheese bits fused into the meat. The food that was importantly made fresh, was not even real in the first place. So, what is it we want? We want fake food, pre-made to our convenience. Look around the food landscape. Real, fresh food is now a marketable factor. Places are special if they serve fresh food or free-range beef. It is an anomaly of our society to have real food. You can barely even get fresh, real food in our grocers. In order to get wild salmon or grass-fed beef or free range chicken you have to shop at top of the line organic grocers like Whole Foods and pay way more money for it. People choose to buy frozen, presliced and breaded chicken bits because the price for organic chicken is too high yet they are more than okay with paying Comcast way too much money for sixty something channels of cable television?

There is something wrong going on. Our world is fake, and we have embraced it.

We like our fake food. We have made it taste better than the real thing. There is a reason I love sandwich meat. It is so dang tasty. Real turkey is terrible in comparison to a nice, thin sliced piece of deli meat. Yet, that is not real. I have come to prefer the fake over the real. If allowed the choice, the majority of kids will choose chicken nuggets and pop over fresh cooked food and milk. Jamie Oliver proved it. The worst part is we promote it. We make our fake food taste better and buy it in bigger numbers and mark it down so more people can afford it. Everything around us, is becoming fake.

After we are done eating our fake food we are transported into our fake lives: living out our fantasies vicariously through actors and actresses. Television, movies, video games, porn: It is all a fake life we choose to connect with, we choose to live through, in order to make our lives more interesting. Our sex lives are mundane so we are told by psychiatrists to live vicariously through porn stars to spice up our love life. We have indie kids living through the mixes the characters in their favorite books, which were adapted into movies, made. People are naming their children Neo because they believe The Matrix was a documentary. And what happens when the disconnect between the screen and reality becomes to noticeable? We make it into a video game. We take control of the characters we are living through and merge our reality further into theirs, all the while severing our precious connection to the real.

Now, let me stop this rant for a moment to make a comment. I am in no way bashing media. I believe wholeheartedly that much of media is art. Someone had a vision, whether comedy or tragedy, and they poured their passion into this art form. The reason we connect with it is because of this passion. I am a huge fan of many movies, television series, video games and books. I love the emotional connections that are made. Crying tears of joy as Pam and Jim finally got married (spoiler alert…wait, I think i am supposed to do this before the spoiler….ooops.) Freaking out when the scary black monsters steal away the mysterious white princess as I make my way through ICO. Laughing hysterically as Modern Family creates even more awkward moments. Media is awesome at making connections to you through emotion and personal experience and there is nothing inherently wrong with this connection. The problem arises when we invest our identity into these characters and settings. I am not talking about Uberfanboy pretend fun. What I mean is that the real problem is when our real lives suffer and become mundane because we are spending more time in the fake world than in the real world. When the most exciting moment of your week is Monday night RAW (Thank you Mike for indirectly causing this reference) you have a problem. We live dull, unimportant lives because we are too busy living out our fantasies in a fake reality. This is the problem. The problem gets worse when we start to find meaning in consuming entertainment. People who flaunt their Gamer scores, or have to be the first Mage to get to 85 without ever doing a quest. Now, these things can be harmless bragging rights, but to many this has become their livelihood. The only problem is, it isn’t real. You can’t put your gamer score on a resume. Getting Shadowmourne will not help you in any way in reality.

So, we need to allow media its proper place. We need to allow art to be art. Art should inspire us, not consume us. Media should be enjoyed, not obsessed over. We need to gain control of our lives, and start living in the real.

So, after we have eaten our fake plastic food and lived our fake plastic fantasies, we head to our fake plastic churches. We do fake charity to whatever causes we like to pretend we care about. And this could be the worst part of our fake lives.

Now, I will try not to rant too much on community and church structure. That discussion is for a later time. But, it can be said that what churches in general do is further separate us from the real. Our community reduced to a few hours a week, where most of it is spent sitting quietly and listening to someone tell you what to believe. We are force-fed truth, which turns it into a fake form of wisdom. We cannot allow ourselves to find truth, in fear and trembling. We need our pastors to tell us what to believe and even they are fake. We set up this ideal belief that our pastors are these perfect people, and when they are found to be struggling, like all of us, we condemn them. We give our money to our church because we are told to, which is fake tithing. We cannot be giving of ourselves to help the weak and the sick and the poor, because our church needs air conditioning! Then we head home, angry at ourselves because we cut someone off while showing off our Jesus loves america bumper sticker.  This is because we are new gnostics (something that will be delved into on a later date) who have simplified truth to catchy statements on our cars: The fruit of our faith, transformed from real actions to fake stickers.

Or perhaps you are not a church goer. You are one of the enlightened ones, who finds the folly of theism to be laughable. You are much smarter and better than these people because you don’t just follow the words of your preacher. No! you just blindly follow the words of Hitchens and Zeitgeist. But it’s okay, because they are scientists. We can blindly follow them because they have dedicated their lives to show off how smart they are. They can’t have biases. So you turn science and philosophy into this fake bragging right.

When we all get home we go on facebook and write about all the injustice in our world, because if we post about it enough, then people will know we care. We send around slacktivist chain posts about this or that, feeling good that we support these causes, even though we have done nothing to change them. We rant against political figure A and praise B, even though we refuse to get involved or even learn the truth about either of them. We write blog posts about the injustices in the world, yet do nothing to change them. (>.>   >.>   >.>) It’s all fake.

Fake plastic charity. Fake plastic church. Fake plastic atheism. Fake plastic truth.

 

Fake Plastic Trees – Radiohead

Her green plastic watering can
For her fake Chinese rubber plant
In the fake plastic earth
That she bought from a rubber man
In a town full of rubber plans
To get rid of itself
It wears her out, it wears her out
It wears her out, it wears her out

She lives with a broken man
A cracked polystyrene man
Who just crumbles and burns
He used to do surgery
For girls in the eighties
But gravity always wins
And it wears him out, it wears him out
It wears him out, it wears…

She looks like the real thing
She tastes like the real thing
My fake plastic love
But I can’t help the feeling
I could blow through the ceiling
If I just turn and run
And it wears me out, it wears me out
It wears me out, it wears me out

If I could be who you wanted
If I could be who you wanted

All the time, all the time


Perhaps it’s time we break out of our fake plastic worlds. We need to realize that food is important. It is what sustains us, what keeps us alive. We are constantly putting it into our bodies, perhaps it should be good! We need to live our own lives. Go and have adventures, find out new things. Allow our imaginations to take back their proper place in our lives and allow art and entertainment to have its proper place. We need to break free of the bondage of fake truth. Realize that our facebook posts have no bearing on the problems in our world. Use blogging as it should be used, to educate and provoke. To get people to think and to share opinions, not a place where you can pretend like your writing is actually making a difference in Sudan. We need to allow church to become the true community it was meant to be. Allow pastors to step down and join the lay. Realize that we are all sheep trying to find our way in the dark or at the very least realize that our pastors and leaders are not perfect and be okay with that fact. Find truth for yourself. Read, read, read your bible. Fight with it, struggle with it. Do not just go to it to re-affirm your spoon fed beliefs. Allow it to challenge the very threads of your existence. Allow other writings and art and people to do the same. Never stop questioning, growing, struggling, and breaking down. It will only get better. It’s not easy, but its real. It’s up to you. Do you embrace reality or continue living in the fake plastic earth we have created?

“This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland,   and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.”
Morpheus (The Matrix)
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Bully Hysteria

"That hat is gay!" "Cmon teacher, aren't you supposed to help me??"

I have been watching the news, my friends, and the general population get more and more passionate about stopping bullying lately. After a series of terribly unfortunate and saddening suicides, supposedly stemming from bullying, the nation seemed united in the fight to stop this serious problem. I however, could never find myself in alignment with the masses. The more I saw anti-bullying statuses on Facebook and bully awareness news reports the more my feelings separated me from these ideals. I always wanted to voice my thoughts, but in the moment they always seemed muddled. I was also worried, as I am even now, that there would be some severe backlash for having the stance I have. I know many people who are very passionate about this, and my hesitance to write this is based largely in my desire to not offend anyone. Yet, it is one thought that keeps coming up in my head. So, I tread carefully and thoughtfully as I make my case, to stop the bully hysteria.

Bullies hurt. There is no doubt about this. I spent the larger portion of my life being bullied and at times, when there was someone lower than me on the social food chain, did my share of bullying. I am not proud of the latter, and have made it through the former. Somehow, I was able to make it through the danger zone that is public school with not only my life, but my dignity intact. Because ultimately, bullying can’t do anything to you. That is, unless you let it. I wholeheartedly stand by the idea that bullying has never been the cause of any death, cutting, or any other form of long lasting personal strife. The problem comes when you start to listen to the bully. It is the same problem that arises when you allow the blessings of others to define you or the picture of beauty portrayed in the media to define you as ugly. The problem we have on our hands is not a problem of bullying: it is a problem of self image. A bully can only do as much damage as you allow them to. The worse you feel about yourself, the less support you get at home,  and the lack of a proper self image are what cause all of the problems we are running into. I spent my whole life being told I was a fatass, a whale, and a geek (back when it wasn’t sexy). I was never smart enough to fit in with the super geeks, but never cool enough to fit in with the popular kids. The theater, the one place I felt welcome, was filled with ridicule for my weight. Yet, I never contemplated suicide. I never once cut myself or turned to drugs. I attribute this in part to my amazing family, who constantly affirmed that I was worthwhile and in part to my wonderful community of friends (that in later years of my schooling, was my youth group at church) through which i found acceptance and love. I was able to stand up to the bullies. I was able to realize that their words meant nothing, and even though their actions would sometimes cause temporary damage, nothing could tear down my spirit because I knew who I was.

I would even go so far as to say, bullying helped prepare me for the real world. It is not like once you get out of school, the bullying stops. There are still going to always be people with low self esteem who prey on the weak. I experienced one of these people at my local grocer recently. A man, so selfish and impatient, he had to push me out of the way (quite forcefully, I might add), in front of his grade schooler, because he had to buy his case of Coors light. He was everything that a bully could be. I have always believed school is more than just education. It is preparation for the real world. There is social learning to be done. You learn how to make friends and how to interact with girls and how do take heartbreak and even, how to deal with assholes. It only gets harder in the real world, and sheltering our kids by putting on these extreme crusades against bullying may actually end up hurting more than it helps.

And these crusades are not going to accomplish anything. Over punishing a kid for using the wrong word or messing with someone is not going to stop bullying. In fact, more times than not I can guarantee it will make it worse. One thing I learned in school was you never tell on the bully. You stand up to them. Going to a teacher only fueled their fire, by: 1. Getting them in trouble and 2. showing your weakness.  Ultimately, that kid you suspend from school is only going to come back more angry, more insecure, and more of a bully. If they can’t bully in school, they will do it outside of school. And it is much better for it to be happening in the walls of school than on the walk home. Perhaps it is not the bullies we should be worrying about at all.

Then what should we do about this problem? I mean, suicide is a pretty major problem. I think the solution to the problem lies not in condemning the strong (who in all actuality are weak, and are showing it by bullying) but by lifting up and taking care of those who they would attack. You can fight and fight all day against bullies, but that is not going to stop the suicidal young man who is dealing with unsupportive parents and a lack of social contact from downing a bottle of pills. Engaging with that person, connecting with them, building up real communities that are open to all people, showing people true love and embracing all, these are the things that will stop bullying. To all you parents of youth who have been bullied: it is far more important to let your child know exactly how much they matter and how truly special they are, than it is to go bully hunting. To those who walk the halls, embrace those who are picked on, those who are socially outcast. Not because you feel bad for them, but because they are no different from you. If you don’t, you might as well join the bullies. And to those that feel alone: Do not allow anyones words dictate who you are.

 

On a somewhat separate note, I have noticed that this whole hysteria has been somewhat focused on homosexual bullying. I mean, everyone throws in the extra tags when listing the types of bullying, but lets be honest, most of the time, especially recently this is what you are talking about. This has led to a new sacred cow being born. I am finding more and more people who get so angry when I call something gay, or when I make some stupid gay joke. The best part is, everyone who gets mad about it is always straight. As a matter of fact, all of my gay friends never seem to have a problem with my use of words or my choice of jokes. This is because all of my gay friends are secure enough in themselves to be able to laugh at the culture they are a part of and realize this one simple fact: a joke is not serious. So to all you uptight straight people, calm down and laugh. Let us embrace the old adage of “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” They are only words. It’s only a joke. Just as the catholic churchs needs to relax and embrace Dogma for what it is, just as I hear more racist jokes from my black friends than anyone else, we all need to stop taking things so seriously, stop making things unjokable, and grow a sense of humor.

I end with this horribly distateful joke, just to commemorate this embrace of light heartedness:

A muffin and Helen Keller are in an oven. The muffing turns to Helen Keller and says “Boy, its hot in here.” and Helen Keller says “UGHNHHHNHUGAAAAHNGA!”