Doug Bruns

Posts Tagged ‘Consumerism’

Naive moose and other worries.

In Nature, The Examined Life, Writers on April 7, 2012 at 7:00 am

Repost from June 2009

Some cultures practice that a photograph steals part of the soul. The Sioux believed that each exposure dissolved some vital layer of life. I have a friend—he does not own a television—who says that T.V. robs us of our intelligence. That, I believe to be not far from the truth. A vital layer of life slips away in front of the T.V., a shard of life-force gone to rest. Another friend went off-line after finding herself aimlessly staring into her computer at night. She said she had “to get a life,” that the internet was stealing it. I sometimes wonder if we are losing bits and pieces of ourselves as we are given over to the subtleties of modern existence, not only its technology, but also its conveniences and entertainments?

There is a phenomenon in animals where they become “naive” if natural predators are removed. After a generation or so they forget their enemies. Wolves re-introduced into the wilds of Yellowstone had easy pickings until the moose realized they were going to be eaten by them. This is what I mean by the subtleties of modern existence. Predation and consumption are related and I fear that one easily morphs into the other. They become the beast that pursues and devours. I know. We were once intimate.

In 1965 Joan Didion wrote:

Because when we start deceiving ourselves into thinking not that we want something or need something not that it is a pragmatic necessity for us to have it, but that it is a moral imperative that we have it, then is when we join the fashionable madmen, and then is when the thin whine of hysteria is heard in the land, and then is when we are in bad trouble.

She closes by saying, “And I suspect we are already there.” She was writing on morality and consumerism and of course the grand era of the ‘60s. But on a larger canvas, as it relates to our possessions, I think that we are close to trouble–as recent events, the crash and burn of consumerism, suggest. It seems to be the nature of things that the stuff we own will soon enough own us. I live in a world devoid of natural predators, yet fear being the moose in Yellowstone, growing forgetful and waxing naive.

I resist.