05 November 2012
a bear market.
Guilt? You want to talk about guilt? I actually feel sorry for things. Not just living things, like trees, plankton, and ants, but also consumer products as well. Quite a few years ago, I was in a lousy, now-defunct discount department store for reasons I can't remember (or prefer not to), and I happened to walk past a display of stuffed bears in the toy department. Now these bears weren't manufactured by some big name toy manufacturer like Gund or Fisher-Price. And the bear itself wasn't recognizable as a particular character whose name and likeness would be subject to trademark. It was just a generic, cheaply-made, probably toxic nondescript bear. The problem was this: There were about a hundred of these bears (I'm exaggerating for effect, of course—but there were a lot of them, okay?) in a wire bin in a dark, dreary back corner of the store that nobody visited. You can picture it, can't you? There's this big, cage-like bin of bears under a flickering bank of fluorescent lights in a dingy drop ceiling with faint water stains. Of course, the bears were no doubt chucked in the bin by some asshole teenager, so they were lodged within the wire perimeter at strange and cruel angles. One bear's feet would be in another bear's face—and this bear's snout would be in that bear's ass. You get the idea. It was just a giant, depressing retail metaphor for sadness, loneliness, indifference, neglect—all of the emotional biggies, really. And when I saw this bin of bears—on clearance, no less—I instantly became miserable. I endowed each and every one of those bears with a human emotional response—and that response suspiciously resembled many of the worst feelings from my childhood—when my mother and father would argue day after day and leave me and my sister to (emotionally and physically) fend for ourselves. Yes, I know... the psychology behind it all is a neon cliché, but clichés become clichés because there is some prevalent truth in them. Because my feelings are painful but ordinary, does that mean that I'm not entitled to express them in some way? Does the triteness of a psychological complex preclude its relevance? I guess it goes without saying that I was compelled to buy one of the bears in order to liberate him from his predicament. I wasn't hoping for anything like catharsis because I knew that there were ninety-nine other bears suffering because I didn't choose them... because, you see, I want to save everyone and everything on this planet—and if I can't, then I'll never be happy. I inhabit every human, every animal, every object that's lonely or forgotten. I'm a neurotic ghost skittering from form to form, loaning my affects to dead matter. This isn't altruism, this isn't generosity, this isn't the aspiration of a new-age, freeform Jesus Christ. This is the worst kind of selfishness. I'm trying to deal with everything I feel by giving it away, by working through it at a distance—with a stuffed bear or a dying tree or even a piece of trash. It sounds like a joke—but twenty years later, I still have the bear, and if I got rid of it one day, it would be like doing an injury to myself worse than cutting or hitting or burning. I would suddenly become what I was protecting the bear from all these years, and I can't let that happen. Anything else but that. When I get home from work today, I will take a picture of the bear and show it to you. Maybe you'll see what I mean. Then again, maybe you won't.