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Zen and Earth Spirit go Shopping

May 14, 2012

“We are exactly here, in this mall,” said Zen, who, it turned out, had a knack for stating the bleeding obvious. This was starting to annoy Earth Spirit, who asserted: “This place is a travesty.” He was turning out to be quite a downer when it came to retail therapy. They made an odd couple, it has to be said. “What is it that ails you, friend?” asked Zen. “The baubles shine with fake promise, the people herd themselves into the pens, and they burden themselves with the plastic ornaments to their alienation from nature,” said Earth Spirit. This certainly wasn’t the commentary hoped for by the shopping centre operators, who had installed piped music with exactly the right balance of meaningless pop, bright notes, feelgood jingles and sassy sophisticated  café lounge muzak to inspire and perpetuate the grazing on commodity goods Earth Spirit found so distasteful. One of them overheard him, in fact, and realised this spirit of rebellion would have to be packaged into a dark new style for the coming season. The kids’ll love it, he mused to himself, sensing another windfall due to the magic of marketing. Sexy chicks in ripped jeans would mouth the words, while pouting boys with improbable hair would act so cool they’d rather fall off the sidewalk than agree with their parents on anything. Sale. War. “Alienated From Nature,” he’d call it. Better trademark that. So cynically self-aware, embracing the chaos and confusion and making it our own, a new generation of adolescent longing in the hands of the captain of industry, dreaming of power without responsibility, caving in to branded tribal systems before they even know such things coursed through their veins like a deep cultural meme that was supposedly eradicated with the new wave.

“Then isn’t this nature, as well?” asked Zen, honestly. “Right, so, because it happens, it’s OK?” responded Earth Spirit, annoyed. “That’s just grist to the marketing mill, the philosophy of the caged,” he retorted. But Zen persevered. “Surely this reflects something intrinsic to the way people are, or want to be?” Earth Spirit laughed sardonically, “Yup, and it’s called the lowest common denominator, pal. It’s based on sourcing the cheapest crap and advertising it as the most necessary item, creating and maintaining slave labour populations in the Third World, failing to take any account of the environmental collapse fostered by this regime, which profits most those who sit back in their gated compounds and watch the earth burn while their fund companies continue to grow. It keeps people from thinking about all of that so they can get fat on bad food and have more useless items to show off to their neighbours. It sucks and avoiding that is buying into it,” spat Earth Spirit, disgusted with the parade of humanity swelling towards the lunch hour rush and by his friend’s seeming inability to understand his position. But Zen reached out a hand, placed it on Earth Spirit’s arm, and consoled him. “Don’t worry, I’m not here to buy anything, dear man. I just wanted to be in the marketplace, not that the ox is tamed. I’m sure you’re right and that the conditions that sponsor this feast are not as they should be.”

“Yeah, this ain’t no Taoist village stall selling dried onions from a communally managed organic plot, ya know,” said Earth Spirit, laughing at himself in spite of his anger at the way such palaces of veneered splendour were churning so much of the planet to dust, while he was powerless to combat it. “It’s a fucking nightmare and I despise it and everything it stands for,” he continued, without falling back into his sullen mood, now turning the words into a little melody and shuffling to the beat. “So let’s dance, ecstatic mystic, and pray that it falls in upon itself without taking too many of the blessed innocents with it!” They both laughed at this, the hopeful tone amidst the expected rubble, the embrace of survivalism and the desire for a better way, all rolled up together in the one combination of realism, animism, celebration and despair.

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One comment

  1. I never know quite how to respond to your posts, Cities of Light. Suffice to say I am especially enjoying the Zen and Earth Spirit Chronicles to date.
    Hope all is well.



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