Disgusting

It can’t be, but probably is, sheer coincidence that this haiku by Shiki Masoaka was today’s reading in haiku mind a collection by Patricia Donegan. I’ve been reading one haiku a day for a little over a month now.

It’s hard to imagine a more appropriate haiku and commentary for Black Friday (unless it’s the haiku that occurred to me Wednesday while sitting on the couch watching one commercial after another, particularly and ad promoting specials on Thursday evening).

disgusting—
people arguing over
the price of orchids


SHIKI MASAOKA

Greed, once one of the seven deadly sins warned against in medieval Christian culture, has expanded through Western capitalism into the globalized culture of hyperconsumerism. Whether on an international or personal scale, it is difficult to switch our allegiance and notice the beauty of the pristine white orchids nodding in the hazy sunlight, and to realize the absurdity of wanting more and more. The poet here, even a hundred years ago in Japan, saw the same human axiom at work. Today this is a worldwide reality: when 1 or 2 percent of the world's people own most of the wealth and when the acquisition system of multinational corporations flowers on a world scale, the result is not just orchids that are at stake, but the depletion of human and natural resources, resulting in plague, famine, war, and the ruin of the environment. Only when human beings realize that everything on earth is interdependent can we switch our thinking from competition to cooperation, from greed to compassion. Then we will be able to just admire the orchids, perhaps together.

Excessive consumerism has nearly robbed me of my favorite time of the year. I suppose you could argue that my wishing for a “special” present as a child was also a form of “consumerism,” but that would be like arguing that enjoying a 6 oz steak is the same as gluttony.

Excessive advertising has nearly stripped Christmas of any beauty that it might have once had for me.

4 thoughts on “Disgusting

  1. What if we all wanted nothing…not the 300 mm lens that lets us define the hummingbird’s throat from a hundred yards, not the new tires that seem to hum so quietly on our Sunday run to take Grandma out for a spin? What if we took back the thermal gloves, the well-made boots? Isn’t barefoot good enough? I am teasing you a little, because you seem to scorn wanting in general, while approving particular wanting as if our ability to be precise absolved us of hunger.

    I watchd our (adult) kids yesterday sort through an old question yesterday: they told us it was time for them to stop gifting each other. Each of them would pick a name from the hat and would give only to that person. Kids under 16 exempt from the drawing. Folks (by choice) also exempt. I nodded in solemn agreement, glad to see them taking the lead as much as I liked the drift of their generosity. They want to honor the idea of giving, not getting.

    So i’m reluctant to dismiss the rush of commercials as evidence we’ve all hurled ourselves over the Cliffs of Gimme. I think we’re all on a continuum, in fact. I can’t think of a thing I want. But I’m not above receiving. I sorted my t-shirt collection and decided 10 more could go to Goodwill..then thought, “That still leaves a dozen…six for chores, six for dress-up. And another dozen polo shirts or sports shirts gradually gathered over 10-12 years. I could probably make do with 10 total shirts, and free up three shelves that tremble now with their burden. That goes for socks, five pairs of shoes–when I only wear 3-4 unless we go out mudding. As for books…don’t ask. I buy them the way kids buy candy. Some for now, some for later.

    I don’t blame the tidal wave of television for this: it’s only a symptom. And finally, I am not sure it is WANTING I am witnessing. I’m not playing word games. I could live in a warm cave with 10 books, food, some other basics. The rest of my stuff doesn’t define me any more than sky defines a bird Take it away an item at a time and I could watch you the whole time without wincing…until you got to a few books, a photo album, a shoe my foot prefers. a couple of sentimental handmade things. But even then, I’d still be a creature of stuff, would I not?

    Isn’t it a matter of how MUCH stuff? I watch one of those hoarder shows lately with my wife, and we shook our heads in wonder at the (apparent) inability of some folks to distinguish between a candy wrapper and a really important thing like…………a couch. Saving every tchotchke aquired at a yard sale seems pathetic, until I look at my tiny status of Groucho, Zeppo and Harpo , or my squishy twin gorillas, my drawerful of fishing lures, or my five bottles of eyedrops + two in the car

    Hunch: its not greed or status that pushes us. It’s comfort. We are only more or less dependent–with our stereo gear and our mushroom books, than the Yuroks of Southern California (now extinct, I believe) who had two separate counting systems…one for obsidian blades…one for woodpecker scalps.

  2. Sad, isn’t it that the day after we spend time being grateful and giving thanks that we turn with such a vengeance back to acquisitiveness…. Almost pathological, like a drunk going on a bender after one dry day.

    • If you click on “Reply” you can attach your comment to his comment. I’m sure he wouldn’t be offended by any comment you would make. He’s an ex junior college teacher; so I’m sure he’s used to having others disagree with him.

What do you think?