Pop into a coffee shop mid morning and you’ll find a woman or man dressed in an ironic textile (sometimes vegan) love/hate letter to the 60s/80s/90s (for some reason they hate the 70s) and more doodles on his skin than your childhood refrigerator, haunting the shop for his pre-work “motivation” chai/macchiato/americano before his shift. If you go to a trendy bar that neither your well-off uncle nor your working class grandfather could comfortably plop elbows at, you’ll find these men and women taking some post-shift shots with overwrought pizza (tacos if it’s a Tuesday) and sangria/margaritas/etc. If one of your friends likes BuzzFeed, you’ve seen people in the hive-cities of New York, Boston, San Diego, and Philly doing this and getting massive aquarium margaritas that contain an entire bottle of tequila and slices of pizza that cover the table. I’m not joking, these things exist and seem to attract people wishing for a “larger than life” meal which doesn’t need to be half that large to dwarf what they call a life.
Would you really have that hard of a time imagining these people breaking into an ear-gouging rendition of, “Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes?” Or perhaps some other number from that detestable dithyramb known as RENT. It’s all about the moment and “celebrating the now,” isn’t it? Everything is a spectacle. In Weimerica, if food isn’t also amusing, it’s not worth eating. If your meal doesn’t end up on instagram, does it actually satiate your appetite?
And that gets to the point. To you (hopefully) and me, food is a ritual. Yes, occasionally we get stuck eating lunch in front of the keyboard trying to bang out an RFP response here, a grant request there, or perhaps some other drone task. But meals taken, even alone, should be acts in which we participate in our humanity. In this way, hunger, too, is sanctified. We need nourishment and so we draw from things outside us to make us well once again and strengthen ourselves. This is best done with family and friends and their company genuinely improves the meal. I’ve had better meals with mediocre food and good company than great food and myself. I think it’s that way for you too, which is how we know that eating isn’t truly about sustenance. If, like me, you look to Christ and the Bible to guide your life, you must realize that our entire religion centers around a sacrament of sharing food and wine for a reason.
To this class of shift workers who stock cheese at Whole Foods, recommend their favorite merlot at Total Wines, and pour your beer at the local dive bars, the participation in the meal becomes an ironic act. They celebrate the food as jubilation itself. The desire to partake in the excellence of substance and to enjoy the moment is what allows them to fundamentally misunderstand the moment and the meaning of the meal. Rather than becoming a source of revitalization, the meal is merely medicine to kill the pain from the promises of modernity falling short. No, we cannot all be movie stars. Our ordinary lives share no resemblance with the “ordinary” lives we see on television or film. The grim reality of even intelligent white youths becoming servants of boomers and brown beneficiaries of the welfare state and the bureaucratic make-work system affects all of us differently. If you’re reading this, I know what it did to you. You felt angry. You felt abused. You felt alone and powerless. And so you grasped in the dark for something real, something true, something that defied the modern world you knew in your heart to be a lie. And you came here. Perhaps somebody who cares about you gave you a gentle push.
But not everyone in the world is like us.
And, rather than waking up and pursuing a way out, they deal with the horror of modernity through self-medication. They spend all their money on immediate comforts like food and alcohol, preferably cooked or served by others, so when they are not servants themselves, at least they get to experience the other side. They spend their lives watching the vastly-more-satisfying lives of imaginary people on television or film. It goes back to the RENT philosophy. Every moment is “so dear” because it is a moment you could be eating authentic Thai curry, sipping fair-trade coffee harvested from a remote village in Venezuela with a native word and its translation for you to learn written in chalk on the board, or toasting “tonight” with your friends and “not giving a….” whatever.
And the sad fact remains that most people participate in this as a spectator of their own lives. You aren’t in the moment. You’re just there, enjoying and supporting the collective enjoyment of other people. Days fade into days until years pass, and it finally dawns in crashing finality that your legacy as a man will be a cool mustache, a great vinyl collection, and the ability to pronounce “quinoa” correctly; for a woman the chances of finding a husband you admire and respect and having his children have faded. And when your thirst for glory (and the simple acts of our parents and grandparents that led us to exist were small but great acts of glory) rages, you douse it with tequila, burritos, and “authentic” experiences.
Any “authentic” experience besides living your own authentic life.
You wonder why the modern hipster-liberal lives a life of misery? He lives a life of nihilism, albeit ADD-riddled nihilism where the next kombucha-bar, the next Lebanese-Chilean fusion foodtruck, and the next meaningful Parts Unknown episode dull the deep pain that comes from mortality in life and the lack of having anything remotely constituting a meaningful life, much less afterlife. No home, no roots, no here; they live a half-life everywhere sleepwalking through existence. They love the exotic “other” because they have no identity themselves. This is what E Michael Jones calls “The Gay Disco,” which we all live in.
The blueprint for the modern hipster begins with RENT. I regret that any amount of headspace I have is devoted to that abomination of film and score, and that, one lazy afternoon with our advanced Wind Ensemble instructor out sick, we were forced to watch that catastrophe on DVD rather than listen to Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances or, God forbid, watching a Marlowe play performed. No Marlowe in schools though, because where Shakespeare got a B- in antisemitism, Marlowe got an A+.
As opposed to RENT which was written by a semite Jonathan Larson and primarily follows fictitious semite Mark Cohen in his struggles to immortalize himself and his friends forever in film. The plot follows a motley assortment of jews, POCs, druggies, sexual deviants (including lesbians, transvestites, and bisexuals), and “multiple of the above” characters struggling to make RENT and obsessed with “living their lives,” maaaaaaaaan. They spent all their spare money on good food and spirits rather than saving, even to make “RENT,” hence the name. And it’s not even just the concern of filling the pockets of landlords for their own warmth and sake they neglect. They hold no thought of tomorrow, only the ecstasy enjoyment opiate dullness of right now. They call their constant revelry “love” and insist this is how they spend their lives, yet in the end, they’re all still broke, miserable, and in the same place as when they started, except for the tranny, who is dead.
No fewer than 4 of them with AIDS. Sorry, 3. I forgot the dead tranny. None of them are happy. None of them have grown personally. The only thing that has “moved forward,” so that the viewer can feel resolution, is Cohen’s film, ostensibly what you’ve been watching. It was made to document them as a living spectacle of misery and personal failure for all eternity. The cosmic joke revolves around the fact that you get it and they don’t.
The play gets one thing right. There are five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes you get in a year. How do you spend them? Seek greatness, seek virtue, forge out of the shell of you something greater. Go where glory waits you.