Thursday, March 27, 2008

To google or not to google: The Widget Factor

If I were more organized, I wouldn’t have problems such as:
--losing my internet due to 4 months of unpaid bills
--being unable to reopen my account due to losing the USB disk storage keychain that I must send back with the modem in order to get it fixed
--losing my keitai while jumping over a fence
--being unable to pinpoint the approximate timeline of when I last removed the clutter of my brown shoulder bag.

The last item doesn’t seem like much of a problem at all, I know. However, last night, during my attempts to reposition my belongings in order to create an environment condusive for mental clarity, I came about a most unusual item.

Finding a square inch origami-style folded paper at the bottom of my bag , shortly suspended my cleaning binge. It tumbled awkwardly among my fingers as my mind wavered between two thoughts.
What the fuck is THIS?
How the hell do you open this thing?

Luckily, my curiosity surpassed my annoyance with the cleverly folded object, and it began to make its way open. The curiosity became stronger once I realized it was a photocopied ½ sized A4 paper printed in Japanese. Once I flipped it to its backside, my interest had heightened. Fuck ya, English!

Twas written:

[I read a kind letter from a woman who describes herself as a 56-year-old housewife concerning my last article “The Widget Factor”. She writes, “I had not known the word “widget”…But when I read your article, I thought, “That’s it.” Before the war, she says, “There were many good phases such as taru o shiru * ….In this affluent society, precious words such as ‘contentment’ or ‘gratitude’ now seem to be left behind.
What will become of Japan?
What indeed? Of course, taru o shiru was a slogan before the war because the country’s rulers wanted to channel economic surplus into war preparations. Today, taru o shirazu* * is promoted (by advertising, etc) because they want to channel the people’s share of the surplus into commodity purchase rather than into free time.
Why don’t they want the people to have free time? First, because they can’t make money from it. (Of course, much money is made from the leisure industry, but I’m talking about free time, not industrialized play.) Second, because free time is hard to predict and control.
At the beginning of the Industrial Revolution Benjamin Franklin coined the slogan, “Time is money” to convince people that every moment not spent earning or preparing to earn money is wasted. In this century, the advertising industry has added the slogan “Freedom is buying.” The two seem contradictory, but together they form the basis of the workaholic/buyaholic personality that is the driving force of economic growth.
The first step to liberating oneself from this workaholic/buyaholic cycle is to reverse Franklin’s slogan: “Money is time.” Don’t buy widgets, buy time. Not industrialized, managed “leisure” time, but free time.
Free time to do what? What will become of Japan may depend on how that question is answered.

*to know how much is enough
**not to know how much is enough]

I read it again once I realized the cleverly placed astracized definitions at the bottom of the page. Of course, the thoughts I have now are “When, where from, and how did this strange message make its way onto the bottom corner of my bag?”

However at the time, I was lost in the message. I reflected over the cause of my urge to even undertake this activity of recreating a sense of order in my life. I have been feeling lost and floaty, disappointed in the way I lose touch with the realities of the world and how these realities affect my financial security and preparations for the future. Interacting with others who do not share my inadequacies in securing the comfortableness of their future had influenced the half of me that acts as the adult of this crazy ship I sail within. I am grateful for these influences, for without them—who knows how far off course I might flounder before the storm emerges.

On the other hand, the message shook something in me. Is it true that money is time? Which is the way to live happily? Is happy even the goal? Should it be? Which is better-to save and wait for the future, or to indulge in the now? The safe and obvious choice is to create a balance. However, then circumstances begin to complicate things. Thus things become a circular argument, and so I must digress.

So today arrives. And if I have recognized any patterns of how life works, then tomorrow will also come. But how many tomorrows? What will I need then? What will I wish for then? What regrets will I find on those mornings?
Continuing survival is an inherent trait of all living things, while memories and happiness are all but human ideas that philosophers have dreamt up and taught their offspring.

To hunt, gather, and be happy.

What the fuck is the widget factor anyway? I don’t know, and I am afraid to find out. First they tampered with my bag, and then my mind. If I follow in curiosity’s direction, I may not find the answer, and be left unsatisfied. I believe that fear must be conquered, and its only source of existence lies in the unknown. However, some unknowns will never be known. “What shall I do, wave?”

1 comment:

  1. Glen gave us those ninja star English/Japanese papers when we went to that cool izakaya near the station (not kushi tokyu) where the gangstaz and theyz datez were having dinner next to us.