In America everybody will try to sell you something. At the grocery store they want you to buy snacks you don’t need, at the clothing store they want you to buy more clothes than you’ll ever wear, at the big big stores they want you to buy all kinds of crap you never needed to know existed (in bulk), your kids want you to buy cheese-stuffed pretzels and wrapping paper to fund some club or class trip or other, your waiter wants you to buy another drink, the nice artist next door wants you to buy his paintings, the failed novelist wants some publisher to buy her novel, the pharmacists want you to believe you’ll die without their medicines, advertisers want you to feel so ugly and old and fat and and stinking and awkward that you’ll buy anything to change everything about yourself. The people on the news want you to buy their lies about how everything is going to hell, so that you’re outraged, and you’ll watch more news and buy all the products their sponsors advertise. If you’re an American, chances are you, yourself, are trying to sell something to someone much of the time, whether you want to or not. That’s how the system works.
And not only do you need all of this stuff, all of this information, you need it NOW, or there will be serious consequences. [In a not-at-all funny twist, the manufacture and consumption of all of this crap, physical and intellectual, is probably hastening the end of our world as we know it and the whole world as we will never, ever understand it.] All the good year long, but this time of year most of all, as the ever-longer march to the holidays ramps up, every bit of mail I get, either from the postman or my computer, every message I receive, is a frantic alert that I’m about to miss an opportunity! Time is running out! Everything ends in two days! Or ten hours! Or by the time you finish reading the message! Act now! Act now! Act now! Don’t delay or the moment will be gone. You will have missed it, and it will never ever come back. The sale will be over, and you won’t have bought the thing you never needed at a slightly reduced inflated price.
Endlessly scrolling newsfeeds ignore anything of actual significance to warn you of deadly terrors that, well, they’re unlikely to touch your life, but YOU NEVER KNOW! Watch until the end! And when you’re in a constant state of near-panic, a never-ending ferment of knotty anxiety, the last thing you want to hear is that this is your last chance! YOUR LAST CHANCE for an exclusive special offer! Beat the clock! IT ALL ENDS TONIGHT! Before midnight! Only hours to go! Limited time hot deal! TODAY ONLY!! FINAL HOURS!! FINAL HOURS!! * Your absolute very last final last chance!
Until the next time, of course, because as soon as you delete that one email, or recycle that one flyer, another will appear in your mailbox, offering a different sale for the same product. And when you ignore that one another will come along. And another and another, piling up in a useless heap. Until it’s all just noise, the words have no meaning, time has no meaning, it’s not really passing, it’s in some strange cycle from day to day till the last syllable of the next dozen emails you’re scared to open.
The truth is this: Time is passing at an alarming rate. It’s running and passing, and flying by more quickly with each unfolding day. So don’t waste it buying things. Don’t waste it in stores or online shopping carts. Buying what they’re selling will not fill that void, it will not elevate your spirits in any meaningful and lasting way. You will never regret not buying that one thing you probably don’t need, but you might regret time you don’t spend with people you love, doing things that you love. Act now! To make something you feel good about…a picture, a story, a meal. And whenever possible, when you do buy something, because you must eventually, try to buy it from somebody who, in making it, was doing something that they love. If time is running out, spend it well, it’s the most important thing you have to spend.
*actual email subjects from my inbox.