One of the commonly accepted labels for people in developed countries is "Consumer".
Not "Contributor" or "Creator", even though we do as much producing as we do consuming. Yes, even stingy people parked on the couch in front of the TV eating a McWhatever create at a base biological level, as well as on invisible planes not socially or scientifically recognized. (If it exists, then it is a valid function of the whole.)
But thinking as a "consumer" and buying into that particular cultural, political and economic paradigm says much about our state of mind and how vulnerable we are to the desperate straw-grabbing that tends to follow the illusion of identity starvation. This fiesta of fakeness seems to be coming to a close on a large scale. Do you think we will learn anything?
Last week I had a mysterious physical ailment that completely vanished my appetite--for food, for wasted energy and shallow speech. So I spent the weekend without all that, watching myself go through mild withdrawals and initial mental thrashing around. Sometimes, when I get too enmeshed in the sticky surface of the pond of life, some blessed subsurface event grabs me and yanks me back into the deep, where I breathe differently.
What I find underneath is simply a crystal-clear view of what is. The pond scum is purely fictional. We unconsciously "build" the stories of our lives, assuming that every thought and resulting feeling are some kind of gospel. If there is no "coming to", our reactions to what we think become endless; soon, we react to reacting. To reacting. We lose sight of any honest, real, authentic response. We lose response-ability. Our thoughts become sub-representations of labels of assumptions of facsimiles. And we experience virtual misery.
Sometimes a mental fast is planned--extended camping trips, perhaps, or voluntary simplicity of some other kind. More often, it is unplanned. Spontaneously, a person realizes through a series of events that he or she does not actually "own" a child, a relationship, a reputation, a house, a job. In spite of our best efforts, the child becomes a criminal (or a missionary); the relationship implodes (or succeeds); truth leaks, bubbles pop and systems crash. All of a sudden, everything is "out of control".
You bet. It is. We can't even control ourselves--especially when we set out to do just that. It's a sneaky process, wherein we create a "better self", one that will forever be uninhabitable because it is simply too small. It is a mere sketch of what it is to be truly alive.
Our "consumer" culture tells us that if we first mentally create an ideal self-and-environment, then buy what is necessary to cultivate that image, whether it's an education, surgery, approval from the boss, or the latest spiritual book, then happiness is ours! Our appeal, money, influence and security will just grow...and grow...and if we die at all, it will be from too much sex with gorgeous young things. This is, of course an exaggeration and a generalization. But the language, line, and plot is embedded in our conditioning. Even if we "reject" a corporate or political culture, or some other opposing ideal or force, we still tend to believe there must be something we don't have that prevents our contentment. Maybe we just don't have the "right" person, body, job, or government, we reason. Maybe we need to work harder, deny ourselves more or love ourselves more.
Well, more is not the key. Feeding a "self" does not bring fulfillment, as long as that self remains an idea you believe must be built upon. Even a little stepping back and honest attention can reveal the true nature of the ticky-tack, cookie-cutter manufactured self. Now you see it, now you don't; the guarantee turns out to be bogus and the shelf-life nonexistent. It's easy to be addicted to it, fascinated with it in the same way we can get lost in an "escapist" novel or "reality" show. Whether our self-image is godlike and high-maintenance, or evil and frightening (or both), it still is nothing but smoke in our eyes...unless...we really look, really feel the potential of smoke. Because everything that exists is valid.
In reality, I own nothing, control nothing, gain and lose nothing. I experience myself as nothing more than awareness--even less than, and far more than that. When a self-image appears within that space, it is instantly recognizable for what it is; there is no confusion about what I am. It exists, in a way, as a contrast, as the smallest end of a telescope. I use it when I want to get a bigger view of a particular spot. But I am neither a permanent eyepiece, mirror or lense--I am all that, and the vision that enjoys a telescope, and the sweet spot searched for.
To be continued. :)