As I was walking through the tunnels today a woman in front of me stopped to hold open one of the doors, but the way she was holding the door made me think she was waiting for someone, since unlike most people when they hold open doors, she stopped in the middle of the doorframe and looked past me, so I assumed that she she was waiting for someone else and until that person caught up, she would do her best to keep anyone else from entering the door. I probably stood there for about 10 seconds, waiting to see what she would do, when she finally said, in a rather persnickety manner, “Well, are you going to take the door?” Mind you that while she was saying this, she was still looking over my shoulder and past me, as if she were talking to someone behind me. I turned around to see who she was talking to and when I saw no one there, I realized she was talking to me. I quickly extended my hand to indicate that a successful door-holding-handoff had occurred and then, after having made sure once again that there was no one behind me, continued through the door on my way to work. All I want to know is, what the &*%*% was that!?!?
Archive for March, 2009
Yesterday, I experienced the internet version of winning the lottery: I was googled!! My neighbor informed me that he had been online looking for information about the Van Dorn Metro/Shuttle issue (see previous post) and that my posting was #1 on the google hit list! Woohoo! I never realized that the only thing needed to fill this deep, yawning chasm in my soul was to be googled! The only problem is I think I’m becoming addicted to the high associated with being googled, so much so that I may have to start googling myself…this sounds disturbingly familiar to something I was warned about in 7th grade sex ed…
My question is, “Given Metro’s financial troubles and desire to attract more riders, why is it making it so difficult for their riders to get to the station? Is it because the bus drivers and taxi cab drivers have more clout than the shuttle drivers or is it part of Metro’s plan to force shuttle riders to use Metro buses to get to the stations, effectively placing more money in Metro’s pockets?” Either way, it’s quite irritating and does nothing but display the inept leadership that Metro riders are continually forced to endure. And to make it worse, I really like Metro! I’m not one of those people that finds fault with every decision WMATA makes, in fact, I think the system works rather well! But this decision I simply can’t understand and can only hope the people will rise up and restore logic and reason to the land of Metro.
One of my all time pet-peeves has got to be when people place each different type of fruit/vegetable at the grocery store into their own individual plastic bags. It’s not that I don’t understand the reason why people do this – ease of weighing and determining cost of each type of fruit/vegetable, it just bugs me because of the extraordinary amount of unnecessary waste it generates, and I don’t even mean in terms of environmental effects, since I don’t believe that my individual actions have any meaningful effect on the environment (see free rider problem, or just listen to George Carlin’s bit about Earth Day). To me, the excessive use of plastic bags represents the loss of society’s innocence. Think back to just a couple decades ago – people would put all their fruits and vegetables in one bag and the cashier would ring them up. No wasted plastic, no time lost trying to open the damn bags, just pick up your fruit/vegetables and put them in your collective bag. Today, we are so concerned that our food be ‘sanitary’ that we feel that we need to hermetically seal everything we eat. Never mind that all those fruits/vegetables we are so carefully preserving for the apocalypse have already been exposed to every type of bacteria imaginable, so all you are really doing by placing the items in a plastic bag is ensuring that the food will get trapped in a bacteria infested petri dish! Free your fruits and vegetables, let them breathe, regain your lost innocence, join in the quest to rid America of our dependency on little plastic bags! I know it’s asking a lot, but fight that near irrepressible urge you have to try and protect yourself against nature – I know it’s tough, but your fruits/vegetables (and maybe even your soul) will thank you in the end.
After getting off the Metro in the morning I can either walk outside or take the tunnels to my building. If the weather is nasty I tend to take the tunnels, which along with the obvious benefit of dryness and warmth, also carries with it the added promise of hearing music being piped throughout the tunnels. Today’s music choice was, “Stayin’ alive.” Awesome. The best part of hearing ‘Stayin’ alive’ at 7:45 in the morning is watching the other people who are trying really hard not to act excited at hearing disco on their way into work. I chose to do the opposite and fully embrace the disco, gliding down the hallways, and fully committing myself to that infectious disco beat. Oh, I get some looks. The only time I’ve gotten more looks was when the song was ‘Sex Bomb’ by Tom Jones. That was an awesome way to start the day! If the whole world had to listen to ‘Sex Bomb’ on their way into work, everyone would be much happier. I want to meet the person who does the music selection for those tunnels and thank them for doing their part to making this nation a little better, one disco beat at a time.
Update: After watching Wall-E for the umptienth time I have found another great example of religious theory: Near the end, after Eve has replaced all of Wall-E’s parts and is attempting to retrieve his personality, Wall-E starts to take the junk he had previously collected and compacts it into a little trash cube. This is a great example of the idea of the ‘sacred and the profane.’ In short, sacred and profane is an idea that explains why some things develop holy religious connotations and others become evil. In the case of Wall-E, a piece of junk becomes sacred only when Wall-E determines it to be so and places it in a place of honor (such as his home). However, the exact same item reverts to junk once Wall-E stops considering itself sacred, such as the end when he crushes his treasures into a cube, thereby rendering them profane. The point is simple, any religious item is considered holy simply becomes society accepts it as such, and as soon as they forget it’s sacred it becomes profane. There is nothing inherently sacred about an object other than that bestowed upon it by its worshippers. Or so goes the theory…
Update: As my friend Jason (link to his blog on the right) pointed out, Wall-E starts off with Wall-E collecting all sorts of stuff, thereby seeming to validate a materialistic lifestyle. However, one could also argue that the acquisition of material goods continually fails to bring Wall-E happiness as no object is capable of permanently satisfying his curiosity, hence his need to keep collecting (a concept known in Buddhism as ‘Samsara’) and it is not until Wall-E abandons his search for happiness through material goods by pursuing a relationship with Eve that he truly finds happiness.
I’ve been reading a lot about Buddhism lately. I took a course or two in college as part of my religion studies and always found it to be an interesting philosophy (or religion, it depends on who you ask) on how to approach the world. I’m trying to incorporate various aspects of Buddhist philosophy into my life, such as abandoning thoughts of the existence of a soul and attempting to disconnect myself from certain aspects of the material world. I’ve found that doing this has helped me to take a more dispassionate view towards my job – by separating my sense of identity from my job, I am able to focus solely on doing what my job requires, as opposed to getting caught up in the personal feelings and attachments that develop when one identifies themselves based on what they do for a living. Interestingly enough, the idea that people define their sense of self based on their jobs is probably one of the reasons nothing gets done in this town, for at the core of the issue of identifying yourself by your job is the problem that you cannot admit when you have made a mistake because to do so would be tacitly admitting that there is something wrong not just with your decision, but with who you are as a person. Not a pleasant thought and one that I think keeps a lot of people from being able to objectively analyze a situation.
Strangely enough, one of the things that really got me back into studying Buddhism was the movie, “Wall-E.” Aside from the obvious environmental message (which, ironically enough, the director stated was intended only as a plot device and not a political message, so take that right-wing nuts – more on this in a future post) the movie also raises a lot of important Buddhist concepts, namely the dangers that come from not detaching ones self from material goods and the idea of ‘no soul.’ Regarding the materialism theme – the obvious message is that failure to detach ones sense of self from the material world will ultimately result in ones destruction, whether it be physical or spiritual. Does this mean that one should sell off all their material possessions and live the life of a wandering mendicant? Well, for me, no, but it does show that one should not define themselves by their material possessions. In other words, ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ should be avoided. The second theme, what defines a person, is more interesting and occurs at the end of the movie when Wall-E is broken and has to be fixed by Eve. She basically replaces every component of Wall-E, his eyes, legs, body, and most of all, his circuit card (i.e. brain). By the end, there are very few components to Wall-E that are original, which brings up the question of, ‘how does one define oneself.’ In the case of Wall-E, if you remove his original legs (which the movie shows he has done many times prior to the ending) is he still the same robot? What about if you remove his eyes? Still the same? What about his circuit board, or, brain? After Wall-E is done charging after having had his brain replaced, he is no longer the same and has reverted back to his original programming with no indication of the personality he displayed throughout the movie. This would seem to answer the question of ‘no soul,’ in that once your brain has been replaced (or for humans, you are determined to be brain dead) you are no longer the person you once were and therefore are a different person. However, after Eve’s pleas, Wall-E eventually regains his memory and personality. The question here is, ‘if his brain has been removed and all his parts replaced, what part of him still exists that allows him to remember who he is?’ I suppose the answer would be, ‘his soul,’ and therefore contradict the ‘no soul’ concept. Interesting stuff to think about, especially in terms of morality and medical ethics. And all this plus a bag of popcorn!