May 6th, 2006

No bullshit

And they'll live happily ever after (of course)

In the close quarters of Irwin's, I can't help but hear every detail of wedding planning taking place at the table next to me. It's a bride and her wedding coordinator, I think, because the conversation is all about logistics, with the one of the women taking notes and answering questions. While I recognize that the presence of a Y chomosome gets in the way of really being able to appreciate their excitement, some of the exchange just makes me sad. It's a directionless smorgasbord: "No God," Maya Angelou readings, parents all walking with the bride and groom and breaking a glass "like in the Jewish tradition—I have this book...", and "I don't want to be announced because I might keep my name...I'm not sure...".

How the people at the next table plan a wedding is their own business, no doubt. What saddens me isn't what they choose to do, but how clear a reflection they are of how so many of us believe (in large or small ways) we can approach the world. We take what we like and throw out the rest. Reality is customized and personalized, and when it fails to conform to our wishes, either God is answerable for it or it's a proof of His non-existence. There is no Word outside ourselves. There is no Truth but what we choose.

Part of the rub is that many of us have the material means (whether obtained by cash or credit) to maintain this illusion. We can surround ourselves with people who are committed to the same kind of life, and if we ever start to suspect it's a lie, they can affirm it and us until we're past the crisis. Mobile phones, instant messages, and emails keep us connected to whomever we choose, whenever we choose. Sports and style magazines keep our minds occupied and diverted. Video and music pipe into every corner to ward off the quiet. Even if there were a God (and if there is one, we can tell you all about what we believe about him/her/it and why), that's of limited importance (probably connected to our personal spirituality). We've already got it all figured out—just ask us. And if it's all bullshit, so what? Chances are we can make it work most of the time until we die.

We even see the symptoms, but can remain willfully ignorant of the disease. Is it possible that we're so exhausted because we spend our days trying to be little gods over our personal universes? Could that be why we can never work enough, play enough, eat enough, sleep enough, do enough, be enough?

That wedding will go on, just like all of our days and lives will. And I dare not do anything but wish them well, because there may be no higher crime in our culture than opposing happiness. The Matrix has us. But some of us are waking up.