“Wellness” in the Culture of Capitalism

Heavy title. I know.

Seems pertinent.

Seems pertinent.

A friend of mine told me I should talk about a “writing exercise” on here. So I am. Yes, this has everything to do with writing.

The United States needs therapy. As a Whole. It needs to get in touch with its humanity, because too many people are trying to make too many other people into tiny business models. I feel we’re artificially being injected with a new form of beauty, and it’s corporate beauty. Dollar signs look so very, very delicious.

Right?

For those of us who disagree (myself among them), some of us have a difficulty understanding how to find our humanity, or even ourselves, among the overstimulating commercials, the numbing effects of fake sugars and complex carbs, and the general desensitization toward sex and violence. We also live in a culture of instant gratification: faster phones, communication, shorter distances, etc. And the faster you get it, the better you supposedly are at being an American.

I disagree.

Wellness – N. The state of being in good physical and mental health. I believe spiritual health also plays a strong impact to overall “wellness,” and as a writer this is very important I explain.

I had the good fortune to spend five years with a spiritual “Wellness” nut. Even though things didn’t work out between us, she still left a pretty strong impression on me concerning ways to improve overall wellness. And here’s a secret for you: it’s similar to how rich people make more money.

Filling the “void” vs embracing it

Hear me out. Today I had an “epiphany” moment. You know when people use the phrase “filling the void” to explain why they were addicted to something, or why they preferred to do something unhealthy or damaging to themselves? “Oh I shopped so much to fill the void from when my boyfriend left me. These shoes are just another way of not dealing with things properly.”

The void is an assumed empty hole left behind when something major, or otherwise tragic, or otherwise difficult to deal with happens. This can be anything at all. A roller coaster fetish because you miss your dad throwing you up in the air as a child. A love for super expensive sushi (even though you can’t afford it) because it tastes like ecstasy. It happens. I’ve had my own “void” moments, where I played video games instead of dealing with real life stuff, spent money on crap food because I felt lonely or afraid or angry or whatever, splurged on stuff I found out was crap. It happens to all of us.

BUT! What if the “void” is always there, and it is, of itself, a thing to be embraced? I mean meditation is a pursuit of an inner calm, an inner peace, of pushing all the energies of negative (and positive) thought out of the body and mind. Doesn’t that sound like you’re trying to create a void? But you already have one. You have something you’re trying to fill, right? Yet you have a filled space you’re trying to open up for meditation.

I think they’re the same void. When something traumatic happens, you have front row seats to the center of you–the void–and you look at it and hate it, or realize it’s so empty, or you realize whatever. It’s a huge deal. Meditation comes from a pursuit to cultivate that space. A person able to reach that space of inner calm is much more capable to handle the world. I think it’s a bad idea to try to fill it. But what’s the alternative? We never think about that much. “Ooh. I was trying to fill a hole left behind from my friend’s death.” The alternative is to see the bad habit and stop it to stop trying to fill the hole. Because the hole will never be filled. Why? Because it’s a symptom to a larger problem? Possibly. Moreso, the void is something to be embraced.

Embrace that hole. I find it similar to how Robert Kiyosaki talks about money (yes. I’ve read most of his books. No, I haven’t figured out how to incorporate them into my life).

Making money to spend vs making money

Just like we find ways to fill the hole, we seem to look at the dollar as a means to an end instead of an end in itself.

“It’s not how much money you make, but how much money you keep, how hard it works for you, and how many generations you keep it for.” –Robert Kiyosaki (Author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad series)

The guy is very, very intelligent. He knows a lot, and one of the many lessons I learned while reading his books is the importance of understanding money as a thing you can own. The money itself, and not whatever toys you spend it on. Owning money means you make more of it. Spending it is inherently bad because then you don’t have money anymore, but stuff.

In this capitalistic society, we think “stuff” is the best. THE BEST. Right now I’m looking at two computers, an iPhone, an iPad, and an iPod Touch. I don’t need all of that. In fact, I don’t need much of any of it. They were all purchased with specific goals in mind, to be sure, and I use them to move forward with my goals. But they are wanted. Not needed.

Right now, right now, I need money. The money I spent on that stuff could be put toward making more money. We always need money. But not to keep money, but to spend it on other things. It’s the capitalistic nightmare. One of them, I think. We’re told be media society that, damn it, you need to spend your cash ASAP because you can’t live another day without really good food, or really great shoes, or that new supercool XBOX ONE, or whatever. It’s a snuffing prophecy: you get money only to spend it, and ultimately it goes to someone else who saves it.

Much like how we see the void as something to fill, we see money as something to spend.

I think it’d be much healthier to look at the void as something to embrace, much as Kiyosaki believes you should embrace money (and not spend it).

So if I were to take this guy’s quote and change just a little bit, toward understanding Wellness, it’s this:

It’s not how hard you work to fill your void, but the time you spend with it, how much you let go to be in it, and how fulfilling it becomes in your ultimate centeredness. 

I think that’s a run-on. But in my defense, his was too.

What is “Wellness” as it pertains to writing?

Distractions distractions distractions. We all spend well over our fair share of trying to fill empty space and time: TV shows, movies, video games, Facebook, Twitter, tumblr, Reddit (ugh). We spend time shopping and eating and cooking and–some of this is unavoidable. Laundry, for instance, and food, and running/working out, and cleaning, and job. It’s all important. But these distractions kill our creativity, gobbles up our time, and throws us off our center. It’s part of why I deem it so important to eliminate as many distractions as possible before I write.

Furthermore, any good writer will tell you about the moments when he dissolves into his story, where the whole world disappears for stretches at a time, and nothing exists but his typing, his characters, his story. It’s so very beautiful. It’s meditative. It’s a place of laser focus.

It isn’t the void. Let me be clear about this: where I go to write is NOT my void. My inner calm. Where I go before I write? I visit myself.

Gosh, meditation is the heart of most of my inspiration. It’s why/how I dream so vividly, it’s why I can handle so much bullshit in life, it’s why I see a crushing failure of biblical proportions and try to glean whatever lessons out of it before moving on. Meditation is key to my writing life.

Simultaneously, money is key to my writing life. They all go hand-in-hand, they’re all connected, and it’s important to balance. The “Wellness” nut could meditate for days at a time. That might seem like insane-talk to some people, but I really respected her for it. I know a lot of people out there who can’t even count ten breaths before they’re distracted on something else. Gotta get the dog to the kennel! Gotta make lunch for work tomorrow! Gotta do X, Y, Z. I understand. Life is important. But what is more important, and what has helped me tremendously in my writing, is being able to push it all out and simply sit, in silence, listening to my heart beat.

It’s huge. For me, the void must be embraced as an end in itself, much like those who know how to keep money understand the dollar bill is more than just a means to a spend.

Chris

Do you have a finished novel you want read? I have an interest in reading it. I’m honest, blunt, and have an opinion. I’d love to share it with you or anyone you want me to. Do you have a novel/story/focus you want proofed/edited? I’d be happy to assist, free of charge. I’m looking for community.

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9 thoughts on ““Wellness” in the Culture of Capitalism

  1. Y’know, I keep on trying to find ways out of doing laundry. People then have the nerve to call me smelly. SMELLY! Hmph. 😛

    Oh, The Void. People are so afraid of emptiness. It’s a shame, really, there’s a lot to be learned from it. I think the person who realizes this, and accepts it, is closer to personal happiness than a lot of meditation and yoga folks out there. I mean, think about space. Talks about dark matter etc. aside, how much of this universe is black, airless void? A lot. A lot more than there is visible shit. And yet, if there wasn’t some nothing in there, we wouldn’t have anything.

    That very phrase made my head spin a little, and I hated writing it.

    Void is what we’re made of. We are moments of sound and light in a vast expanse of darkness. And until we accept that–until we accept that our deepest failures and greatest losses ultimately mean nothing more than our greatest gains and successes–we’ll be forever unbalanced. Those holes you’re talking about, those little voids we seek to fill, are scars on our souls: something might be missing, yes, but it’s a reminder of something formative that’s happened as well. It still takes up space in your life, in your soul. It’s just space expressed differently. I don’t know if it should be embraced, exactly, but it should be touched every once in a while. To remind you of what happened, what can happen, what SHOULD happen.

    Somewhat more blausy and grandiose than usual, sorry. But this is something I happen to feel strongly about.

    • Laundry. Psh. And smells? Overrated.

      We seem to have similar strong feelings about things. It’s refreshing. It’s also why I enjoy talking to you. Glad we’re on the same page with all of this. I wish more people looked at it this way, instead of dancing around truths as if they don’t exist in the world. Perhaps a huge part of why this culture is so depressed is the lack of self. Oooh. Maybe a follow up blog post is in order…

      • See, it’s funny. I’d say it’s too MUCH self, with too little actual self-examination. We live in a culture where everyone can be ‘public’, through Facebook, Twitter, etc., and people have therefore forgotten how to NOT perform for the public. There’s this sort of automatic assumption in the air that someone, somewhere, is interested in you, what you say, how you’ve done your hair. But rarely do we acknowledge that, to be a figure of interest, we have to say or do something original and interesting. We just sort of expect the success to come to us. And then, when it doesn’t, there’s that depression you mentioned…

        I don’t know. Folks need to learn how to do things that really make them happier and better people. I’m sure it’s always been hard to do. I just feel like these days, when we feel the need to publicize every poop we take, it’s even harder. Privacy has growth value, and there’s precious little of it any more. We need it. We learn about ourselves from it.

        Of course, this is a self-published writer telling you this, on your blog. Don’t know if I can talk. 😛

      • I think the intent is everything. Even with the performance interfaces (social media), you have many options. Only one of which is to grow from it. Blogging and a cup of coffee are about as different as sewing belts and walking on the moon (huge demand for knit belts). You’re probably more solo now than you’ve ever been, in any other time period in the history of the world. While we quietly, exponentially explode in population, we trick ourselves into believing “I CLOGGED THE TOILET TODAY!” is actually, actually performing. While it might get a few likes, it’s a blip on the Media screen, and we’re off doing something else. Like unclogging our own toilets.

        IMHO, the good news is, the easily graspable is everywhere and we’re inundated with it. Everyone knows the “common knowledge.” (Does everyone know Turkey has been outfitting ISIS for years? Only if you listen to NPR…) As good writers, we have an obligation to find the hard-to-grasp, the underbelly, and to make it beautiful. Furthermore, we have an obligation to present arguments against ignorance, against the socially accepted norms, and fight against whatever we disagree with.

        In a way, you and I and others like us, can be terrorists, freedom fighters, vigilantes, and jesters. I can’t see many (or any) other mediums where a person can do that. Will we, though? Will we step up? (A crowd of circus zombies attacks you…) Will we go for the juggler?

        I intend to. Might be too tall an order, but if I’m going to be writing something like this, I might as well stand up for something.

        /soapbox

      • I dunno, mate. Whenever I clog the toilet, I sure feel like I’ve performed. 😛

        Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy social media and the chance it gives you to air your views on the unsuspecting world. But I still think that, in the end, all you wind up doing is sitting on your laptop/desktop talking. If I had a penny, for instance, for every facebook activist I knew who actually voted…well, I’d be like three cents richer. On the other hand, if I had a penny for every facebook activist who hadn’t read an actual news article in five years, I’d be partway through my electric bill.

        I don’t mean to be a snot. I know I kind of sound like one, and you’re totally right–people like you and me need to do some talking, somewhere. But we need to remember to walk, too. Some people don’t do both. I’ve been guilty of it myself on occasion.

        PS–‘going for the juggler’. You deserve some sort of bright shiny trophy, sir, for this most excellent of terrible puns. Unfortunately, I don’t think you’ll get one from this circus: the midget has a big chip on his shoulder, and the Siamese twins split the vote. Not to mention, that damn elephant has no taste. He’s willing to work for peanuts. *badoomCHHH*

      • Yeah. We should walk more. Maybe. I dunno.

        I have a split mind in this example. We should gain valuable experience of the real world, actively, yes. But much like how I feel about “everyone should be feminists” commentary I ran into on Facebook today. (no. We shouldn’t ALL be feminists. We should be ourselves, and if we agree with feminism, then great. But just like Christianity and right to life people, nobody should be shoving their beliefs down anyone’s throat. Or, in my case, froat.)

        My opinion is we should all be weird. Take Mr. Phillip K. Dick–Or even Lovecraft–for instance. Neither got out much. Neither walked much, so to speak. They researched, developed, did a whole lot of drugs in one case, and wrote about the philosophical/spiritual stuff they created. Neither was an activist. Neither lived a long life of, I dunno, being a steelworker or a teacher. They had social circles, I guess, but they were much smaller than you’d think. Like. A social circle of two.

        So yeah. Some of us should walk more. Some of us should apply thoughts to the real world. Some of us should apply the real world to our thoughts, as well, which isn’t the same thing.

        I see exactly where you’re coming from. I love talking. 🙂 If you and I met in real life, you MIGHT tell me to STFU after the first hour, because I have too many things to say. I’ve lived a very “armchair philosopher” life, with too little to show for application. I’m waaay guilty of not walking enough. But. My brain is big, my critical thinking/adaptability is through the roof, and I’m an Eagle Scout. *drops drumsticks* KFC style, baby!

        We should create a “writers walking” group. And just, you know, assist/compliment/admonish our ability to apply shit to the real world. Haha

  2. Oh my God, can we call it ‘Talking About Walking’? SO META mrpfhxrll!!1!

    PS–I just want you to know, out of six guys I know named Chris, three of them are Eagle Scouts. What is up with you people and your achieving things? Should my parents have named me Chris? 😛

    As for the talking/walking thing, I do think talking does good in and of itself. My problem is more when people TALK about walking, and then don’t actually do it–this is what I see social media leading to, oftimes. When it comes to sharing someone’s story about the harmfulness of, since you mentioned it, sexism, people are more than willing to do it, but when their friend says women belong in the kitchen, not a word gets said.

    This isn’t to say we don’t all have the right to believe what we believe–as long, of course, as it doesn’t harm others (and this is where I see the line crossed, most often by people who protest loudly that they have a right to believe what they believe). Saying women belong in the kitchen, for instance, doesn’t actually harm anyone (though someone else has the equal right to disagree). Hitting the woman in the kitchen, however, is obviously unconscionable. As is hitting the guy who said women belong in the kitchen.

    But for me, if you believe in women’s rights and someone says women belong in the kitchen, you should at least gently and kindly state that you disagree. I don’t think it needs to be an argument, exactly, but it’s only doing justice to yourself and your beliefs to say it. Personally, I actually hate arguments, and go to great lengths to avoid them. But if someone tells me I need to take my fingers off the keyboard and apply them to a mayo knife and two pieces of white bread, oh buddy, there will be respectful disagreement. I imagine Philip K. Dick, at least, would feel the same way, and that’s why he wrote the books he wrote (not so much about makin’ a sammich, but. You know.) I make shitty sandwiches anyway.

    I love talking too. I might not’ve explained myself well here. I don’t mean that every person who dabbles in something needs to stand on a soapbox for it, or live and breathe it full time. But if you have an ideal, it needs to be more to you than a facebook meme and the possibility of likes. Writing an original credo is still very much walking to me, rather than talking: especially since, when faced with the choice, most people who write strongly about an ideal are likely to live it as well. And I feel like I don’t see as much of that now as I used to even when I was a kid. Our thoughts, sadly, have become meme’d.

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