Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Ghosts in the machine

Lately I have taken to looking at crosses, strangely abundant in the land of the iPod. Where the iPod takes freedom as its point of departure, the cross refers backwards, it would seem, to suffering. I'm surprised how often the cross shows up, in every kind of place -- often around a person's neck!

Suffering relates symbiotically to consumerism, which produces and reproduces it, while never acknowledging it as its motive power!

Consumerism, we might say, is labor performed under duress for reward in the market. The reward is the market, because it is only in the market where the individual experiences power. The most abused may hate his work, but insofar as it forms an access point to the market, he requests more. Buying things approaches him as the material inverse of suffering, each time promising to make it obsolete.

Suffering is a natural part of the act of life, but consumerism sells the cure for what ails ya! What once was a normal reaction to hardship is now diagnosed as abnormal. While the hardship continues, our reaction does not: this is the new "normal."

For its part, the cross -- and not only the cross, but the Buddha as well -- always references suffering. To be alive will be inevitably to suffer. This is the truth of the cross, which lent power to whomever directed their suffering in an active, conscious way.


Ethan said...

Interesting. While I have no interest in the kind of exhibitionist suffering of the Mel Gibsonian interpretation of christianity (beyond how hilarious I find his movie of it to be), I've always thought that the standard atheist mockery of christianity as creepily obsessed with suffering missed something fundamental, but could never put my finger on what. I think this is it.

JRB said...


Life must be a contest of interpretations where we employ the ones that serve us best in relation to what we want to achieve.

DPirate said...

I find it strange that the cross might bring to mind thoughts of suffering! Raised Catholic, I was taught to make the sign of the cross at a very early age. Likely before I had ever heard of the passion, etc. Top, bottom, left, right: Father, son, holy, spirit. No suffering, just the trinity. Whether I believe or not, to me it simply a symbol of strength, as in "I got backup!".

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