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)