For as long as I’ve been conscious of my surroundings, American culture has been one of greed. In fact, I think it safe to say that if Dante’s’ hell does exist, most of us will be stopping by the fourth level for at least a short visit. In bed last night, as my mind churned with images of this mess our country has landed in, and how we got there, my thoughts turned to Woodstock (the festival, not the little yellow bird).
Woodstock started out as a corporate venture, as most ventures do. But, as the attendance list grew, so did the ideals behind the concert. It became bigger than business suits and conference rooms, bigger than budget meetings and profit margins. It became bigger than the dollar. The weekend was shared in a spirit of love and peace, and although problems did arise, the attendees took them in gracious stride. They weathered rain, poor sanitary conditions and food shortages all because they wanted to be there, to share in the moment itself.
Fast forward to 1999. Another “Woodstock”, this time–a true echo of its origin’s nature–held at a Superfund site. Corporate sponsors lined up, hands out. Merchandise booths and food vendors descended like hungry vultures, each one charging far too much for the substandard wares they hawked. In the only mirror of the previous festival this paltry approximation could claim, food and water again ran short, as did sanitary provisions. This time, riots broke out. Fires were started. Women were raped. The Gen-X answer to the concert that changed rock and roll was a heinous, violent disaster.
When money becomes the sole motive of any purpose, no matter how innocuous or pure the original intent, a shadow falls. This darkness obscures the way, leaving us to wander in the pitch, hoping the direction in which we point is true. And that’s what has happened to our country. We’ve been staggering around in the blackness of avarice, surrounded by the material things we’ve collected, forging for ourselves a vertiginous maze of high end cars, gated communities and the all-mighty–I hate to be forced to say this word–bling.
It is a hard lesson to learn, but a necessary one, one that extends to every aspect of our lives, our hopes. For who among the downtrodden clan of struggling writers has not dreamed of a giant advance, a throng of loyal readers, book signing lines that snake around the block? Hoping for such things is fine, as is attaining them. But, it’s the method by which we go about achieving it, the intent behind our own personal Woodstocks that make the difference. At this critical point in history, where we can learn from our mistakes or doom ourselves to repeat them, we would be better off focusing on what we want out of our work on a personal level, and leave the scrabbling for material achievements to those who enjoy the shadows.
April 9th, 2009 at 5:29 am
February 2nd, 2009 at 9:05 pm
I had to go to Charles’ site to make sure you weren’t pulling my leg. I don’t win things. Not ever. I just did a little bouncy dance in my seat.
February 2nd, 2009 at 8:38 pm
By the way, miss, congratulations on your good fortune in winning Charles’ sweepstakes, there! 😀
January 28th, 2009 at 5:18 pm
lol… thx avtexas cowboy philosophy sez: when you find yourself in a hole, first thing to do is stop digging 😉
January 23rd, 2009 at 5:48 am
Charles — It’s true. Back when I lived near D.C. the outpouring of material excess was ridiculous. Everyone judged everyone else by what car they drove, what their townhouse cost (no one could afford a single family home), and their zip code. I think that’s exactly where too many insecure folks (harking back to Lana’s point) got in over their heads with debt.By the way, nice new pic!Steve — Nah. I just happen to have random bursts of electrical activity that I can, on occasion, channel into something productive.I think you hit the points squarely on the head. The accumulation of wealth almost always leads to the need for more. Rare are the few who make their money and then go live a quiet, peaceful life.Laughingwolf — You just need to look at your hole the way the Architect and I look at ours; if it’s no larger than it was the year before, you’re doing fine. : )Sidney — Praise from you is always considered an honor.
January 23rd, 2009 at 2:17 am
Very well put and an excellent thought!
January 22nd, 2009 at 7:02 pm
could not agree more, avlike lana, i’d like to be able to break even, and on a consistent basis, rather than worry about how to get out of yet another hole….
January 22nd, 2009 at 6:04 am
Wise you are, for one of such small years. Part of the American Mythos is the idea that ‘hard work is always rewarded’, and that ‘anyone can get rich’. There are some good things about these ideas, but there are also some *major* downsides:1) When ‘anyone who works hard gets rich’, it becomes too easy to believe there must be something wrong with the poor. And to treat them badly as a result.and2) if ‘Riches=Virtue’, one’s head is easily warped into measuring all good things by the amount of money they make. As you said, that way lies the death of all that is beautiful, delicate, fine and good.
January 22nd, 2009 at 5:02 am
I agree absolutely. Many people, you give them a million and they want 2, you give them a lexus and they want a hummer. It’s just insane.
January 22nd, 2009 at 4:23 am
Jay — Ah, no going back, I’m afraid. But, with better principles and practices, there will be going forward. Decline is inevitable, but so is progress.
January 22nd, 2009 at 2:11 am
How do you think we get back, or are we lost?
January 21st, 2009 at 11:48 pm
Lana — “Happiness was always my primary goal.”And the world is wiser for having you in it. All the same, may your shortfalls in the coming year stop falling quite so short.
January 21st, 2009 at 11:32 pm
I agree. And if you dig a little deeper, you find that human insecurity is the fuel behind greed (& every other negative aspect of humanity.)I don't really seek fame & fortune with my own art, but it'd sure be nice to at least break even. I'm starting out '09 just under $1000 in the hole. That's hard to take, particularly as I have a mortgage to pay. I'm wedded to the idea of continuing on–for now–but (as I've mentioned on my own blog recently,) I miss the lazy days of margaritas on the deck. If things don't turn around (even just a bit,) this year, I may trade in my $1000/year shortfalls for margaritas on the deck again. Happiness was always my primary goal.