30 September 2011

Austin Pedestrian Crossings?

27 September 2011

Entangled: Deepak Chopra, Appointment TV, and Pumpkin Spice Lattes

Deepak Chopra was in San Antonio this week, speaking at a fundraiser for the Battered Women's and Children's Shelter of Bexar County. People paid money to a great cause to hear the famous "well-being expert" give his thoughts on the future of health and wellness.

I am not sure what qualifies someone as an expert on well-being and I am not intending to hate on what Chopra brings to the table. I just don't get it.

What I am sure about is that 1200 people came to listen to Chopra, hoping to be inspired, stretched, and enlightened. Here is an excerpt from a San Antonio Express-News story on the event:

Chopra began with the basics of his views on mind-body, spirituality and consciousness, “the true nature of being.”

“It's all entangled,” he said.

The founder of the Chopra Foundation and the Chopra Center for Wellbeing, in Carlsbad, Calif., opened by talking about the human body's “dynamic exchanges with forces of the universe.”

On the atomic and subatomic level, he said the human body is constantly recycled — and not a fixed structure. “The human body is a process,” he said, “a biosphere that recycles itself.”

Human genes “are the memory, the record of evolution.”

Chopra went deeper, tapping “the mystery of consciousness.” For him, consciousness equals the soul. But just as often, he was light and playful, offering ways to increase happiness, as well as simple meditation to reach “the space between your thoughts.”

The space between my thoughts is confused.

I can't tell if Chopra is really incredibly profound or merely poetic. I start to break down the words he uses and wonder if "dynamic exchanges with the forces of the universe" is any different that saying that Cletus "got himself a sunburn by sleeping in the truck stop parking lot again". The sun ("a force of the universe") has a "dynamic exchange" (UV rays piercing skin) with Cletus. Right?

I am sure Chopra has great wisdom, so I don't want to act as if he is some hack and that I've got all the answers. I just get the sense that we're so incredibly anxious to be sold something that we'll buy whatever is presented in the prettiest package.

So speaking of pretty packages...


Ever been hooked on something?

Welcome to the fall, home of Pumpkin Spice Lattes and new television programming. Warm sugar and caffeine flows through your body (your "biosphere", remember?) and beautiful people are paraded through your television screen at an ever-increasing rate.

As a former barista, I cannot tell you how many times people would tell me how they were "hooked" on Pumpkin Spice Lattes.

As a human being in 2011, I am also a bit embarrassed to admit that I think I'd like to get "hooked" on a television program.

The fall brings new shows and new chances for us to bond with characters, empathize with fictional people, and admire the Utopian beauty of a place where every woman is 5'8", 27 years old, and nicely toned and every man is 6'2", 32 years old, and obviously sporting a regular workout regimen. She eats salads (dry) and he actually rotates between upper body and lower body at the gym. "You watching this, honey?"

We want to buy into this world and I can only surmise that it helps us escape ours.

We eagerly await something to "hook" us. Please. Anything.

My wife and I sometimes watch The Office on the internet weeks after the episode airs, but probably wouldn't notice for a few months if the show was pulled. We try to watch Survivor (the shame I bear in the shadows...) but it appears at the confluence of evil known as 7pm - not early enough to avoid toddler bath-time and night-time rituals and not late enough to actually allow us to conclude those rituals and sit on the couch.

So we remain unhooked. But, secretly, we wish we had "a show" together, a space in the week where we could meet transcendence. I believe this would be called "appointment television".

I don't know why we want so badly to consume something so breathlessly. We know that the show will get canceled or moved to a crummy time slot or will just become stale. We've been burned before and we've seen the rise and fall of so many likely lures. And yet, we yearn to join the masses who tell the masses on Facebook about the new show that has absolutely "hooked" them.

Almost like getting in early on a hot stock...except the return on the investment is, well, a lot of missing hours and maybe a reflection of reality that can be recognized through looking backwards. Maybe.


We want so badly to catch the wave of the larger truth or the movement that will bind us with all of the billions of others who feel as listless and empty as we do.

We cheer on our sports teams of highly paid men in matching spandex trousers (or worse, highly paid college "students" that we pretend are not paid). We fall head over heels into television, our mental lives becoming indecipherable from those on our 42" flat-screen. We attend lectures and read books of the finest minds vocabulary can create, hoping that some magic phrase, some perfect poetry, will unlock the knot in our souls and allow us peaceful sleep at night.

I don't really know how to resolve this tension inside of myself. Maybe I should say that we're just chasing interaction with the dynamic forces of the universe and that, perhaps, it's all entangled.

24 September 2011

Bourbon Chicken is Our Enemy

"Bourbon Chicken!" one yells out.

"Sample, sample - two entree four dollar," cries another.

"Gyro? Gyro?," asks yet another.

These are the sample people at the mall food court. They are at the the mall I go to and the mall you go to, both the one you grew up going to which is now too ghetto for you and the one you go to now that is, admittedly, a bit too pricey for you.

These sample people, poor wretched souls hawking fatty hunks of sugared meat on toothpicks for $7 an hour, may just be one of the defining pictures of our society.

You see, they've figured us out. We can't help ourselves. We have to consume things. Give me a taste and I will almost surely want to own my own corner of the sugared fatty meat commodities trade.

I see this everywhere. And we are getting duped by this all of the time.

Let me smell the cologne. Yes, I'll take four bottles, please. Give me a ride in your car. I would like a car like that. Hear a song I like...then race to "own" that song (you know, just in case the modern world falls apart, I have a copy of the song on my hard drive...and cloud storage drive in case that fails...and in my external hard drive in case the cloud breaks down...and backed up onto CD in case we regress technologically). Get the point?

In leading a mission team to South Africa this May, we had a running joke about the American need to consume. We were feeding starving children, delivering the Gospel to prisoners, and giving 10 days of our lives to see the local church of Johannesburg encouraged. And around every corner, the team was asking me if there were souvenirs for each event in which we took part.

Can we buy a South African prison jumpsuit? Where did those street kids get that scarf? Can we stop there? Can we eat that? Can I own one? We laughed at how pathetic we were. Secretly, though, we cried.

We couldn't escape our American (human?) need to consume. We had traveled all the way around the world, sacrificed so much to do humble ministry, and then succumbed to the siren song of our modern lives.

Bourbon Chicken?

15 September 2011

Rich, Sad Clowns?

“The United States is the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, yet its inhabitants are strikingly unhappy. Accordingly, we present to the rest of mankind, on a planet rife with suffering and tragedy, the spectacle of a clown civilization. Sustained on a clown diet rich in sugar and fat, we have developed a clown physiognomy. We dress like clowns. We move about a landscape filled with cartoon buildings in clownmobiles, absorbed in clownish activities. We fill our idle hours enjoying the canned antics of professional clowns... Death, when we acknowledge it, is just another pratfall on the boob tube. Bang! You're dead!”