Even though I am not a teenager, I recently had this impulse. Last Saturday – no work to do, kind of crappy weather, no ideas to delve into or anything like that. Just a void of time that I wanted to fill by going to the mall. This was astonishing to me when I considered it because I hate the mall. Like it makes me feel bad being there, due to the negative judgment that I place on the other people there: the people dressed too nicely and with too much makeup on; the people in sweats; everyone in between. The prejudice is very misanthropic, likely adding to why I feel so icky there. I mean, maybe they don’t want to be there either, but I assume that they do because they are there?
The larger question is why I would want to do that in the first place, namely to engage in an activity that I know I don’t like. My time is limited (but it’s not). And maybe this is the issue. Often times I tell myself that I am very busy, but the fact of the matter is I am not. Despite my job and young children / household, there is ample time in the day for me to engage in useful activities.
So where is the disconnect? It comes down to laziness and a lack of a deep sense of purpose. There is a list of activities I could engage in (study, exercise, reading for leisure, planning for the future), but none seemed entertaining enough at the time. This is the mistake, though, to crave entertainment, that tasty mental morsel that grows your consciousness for someone else’s reward or to another’s advantage. Consider movies: these are myths that instill in the viewer’s consciousness a worldview that is unconsciously adopted and then acted upon. They point the way to a good life and model acceptable behavior, and therefore remove moral reflection and agency.
The other part is a lack of purpose. I have a real problem with this. Often times I can’t get myself worked up enough to really believe that much of anything matters. This isn’t in a nihilist sense, but that I think that deep down everything is OK. The world doesn’t need saving. Perhaps I have the concept wrong, but it’s like the bodhisattvas. They vow to become enlightened only until all sentient beings have been enlightened. But bodhisattvas are enlightened and therefore so are we, but we are just not aware of it. We are sleeping to our inherent nature. Byron Katie’s work is a really good example of this as well. She is all about loving what is, whether is conforms to the movie mythology standard or not. Christianity I think has a bit of a strain of this, too. “The kingdom of God is at hand” – it is right here, all around you, staring you in the face but we are too _____to see it properly. The lilies of the field are perfectly happy as God made them, as so should we be, too. They are provided for, and we have been too. The earth is beautiful and good. Now I can say this, not having been through what I would consider significant suffering. Sure, people have been mean to me or whatever but I’ve never been seriously violated. My life has been one lovely thing after another. So maybe that’s how I can be so silly as to want to go to the mall on a rainy afternoon.
The larger point about bringing this up is the idea that spending money somehow counts as a fun activity, or that it will somehow make my life better. In my conscious mind, shopping is not good – I don’t enjoy it and really dislike spending money. If that is so, why would the impulse to go to the mall arise? Maybe it is some sort of deep conditioning, hence the entertainment tangent above, that I have slowly absorbed over time and have yet to eradicate. Despite my natural aversion toward shopping, years of advertising and social adaptation have re-routed my brain into thinking that going to the mall is a perfectly reasonable option for engaging my attention on a rainy afternoon. Awareness is a first step but, man, there is still a lot of work left to do on this consciousness.