Monday, October 18, 2010

Monday morning

Here's something I was inspired to write today.  Not sure if you can call it "inspired", but if you ever wanted to know what goes in that gray matter I call a brain while I'm at work, here you have it.

This will likely be the shell of an Amerika post as I continued on to compare our adult work days (for many of us) with a typical children's school day and how the education system errs in focusing on this same idea of individualism, but ultimately leaning toward collectivism or conforming.

How do we know we're human? 

Seems like a loaded question and a poor attempt at philosophy, but drop the pretense for a moment.

You walk into a building at which you're employed.  You feel businesslike - coat, computer bag strapped over shoulder, maybe a cup of coffee or tea in hand. 

You walk into the elevator with others who look similar.  Buttons are pressed on a keypad to take you to your location.  Your eyes venture all over, as long as they do not stare into someone else's eyes.  Brushed aluminum or stainless steel walls in this contraption affirm your businesslike presence.

At this point, are you not just an extension of the mechanisms you focus on, you interact with, you rely on just to begin a day of productivity?  Or is there more?

What we see when we walk into work, despite attempts at warmth like seasonal decorations in an otherwise drab, too-shiny lobby speaks to the part of us that needs to feel accomplished.  Ironically enough, our individualism may ultimately lead to collectivism in many aspects of our lives, because many of us want the same thing with different labels or at different prices.  Misguided though it may be, we believe the Polo socks, Banana Republic pants, and Claiborne shirt are enough to announce us as different, even while we herd into metal elevators and stroll over to our cubicle space.

So, again: how do we know we're human?

Many of us leave the workplace each day with the intention of catching up on television or hitting a local bar.  Either of those activities may make us feel alive but when the TV is turned off or the bar closed, some may find themselves limping home or to bed, tired enough to engage in that wonderful activity called sleep.  This allows us to turn off further thought until the next morning, when the process begins anew.

What about those annoying bodily functions?  You salivate in the elevator, swallow a bit too deliberately as a result, and cough up a storm.  Others in the elevator pretend not to notice, but they do.  What about germs?  Is this person sick?  Did he cover his mouth - I was staring at the elevator's Inspection Certificate, so I have no idea!

Maybe you are sick, and later you feel it hit hard.  You rush to the bathroom to puke up your coffee and fruit cup.  Feel human enough?

Maybe you're stuck on a deserted road at night in your car.  But you don't have a 2011 model, not yet, you have a 2006 or 2007 vehicle that doesn't have OnStar.  Your cell phone is dead.  You get out and walk toward a gas station - forced interaction with strangers in an unfamiliar environment.  I bet you feel even more human now.

From bodily functions to unplanned social interactions, we are human to the core.  The lack of balance in our lives is embodied in that steel cage-like elevator and mindless job fit enough for a robot.  We don't try to fix what's wrong with our processes - the ones that drive us each day to get up, shower, arrive at work dreary-eyed and only motivated enough to do what's necessary, nothing more.  That is human to a tee, and unfortunately it's completely normal for our species.

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