Wednesday, April 18, 2012

How Much Would You Pay to Buy This?

So I made the walk to 7-11 to get me something to drink.  Not proud of it, but it's what I do sometimes.  There are worse things I could do, right?  I was talking myself out of getting anything but a Smirnoff Ice.  After crossing El Camino Real, a figure appeared from  behind La Paloma.  I tried to gauge if he was approaching me as I had to walk by that way to get to 7-11.  That's when he started moving slowly towards me and spoke to me.

"Can you help me?" he said.

"Probably not," I said, sizing him up.  He seemed to have a bit of a speech impediment, or he may have been somewhat drunk.  He moved slowly.

"I'm trying to get something to eat," he said.  "I'm hungry."

"Well, I don't know--"

"I don't need any money,"  he explained.

"I don't have any cash," I said.

"Do you have a credit card?" he asked.  "I'm trying to get something to eat."

"I might be able to get you something," I rationalized, walking towards the 7-11.  He fell in behind me, and I walked to the door of the convenience store.  He said something about getting a pizza, and having a microwave back somewhere around the corner.  When I got the door I opened it and waited for him.  He thanked me as he caught up and walked through the open door.

"Here, I'll show you," he said and made his way towards the freezer box.  He selected a large frozen supreme pizza.  "One of these," he said.

I thought it kind of strange, but I went with it.  "Okay," I said.  I took the pizza and noted the price-- $7.99.  I then walked to the beer cooler and selected my drink-- a 24-oz. Smirnoff Ice-- and went to the register.

"Is that vodka?" he asked me.

"No, I think it's a malt beverage," I guessed, not really knowing what it is that I like to drink these days.

The clerk rung me up and the guy picked up his pizza and thanked me again.  I held the door for him again as we left the store, and he thanked me again.  "You're welcome," I said.  "Take care."

On the walk home I noticed a strangely shaped piece of something orange, so I examined it as I walked by.  I was a few steps past it when I decided to go back for it.  It turned out to be plastic with fabric on the back, maybe a part of a traffic cone of some sort.  When I got home I popped the top on my beverage and added the bottle cap and the piece of plastic to the "junk" pile of things I'm collecting for an art project.  But not before observing the piece of plastic and having thoughts about it inspiring drawings for me because of it's shape.  The artist in me was intrigued and inspired by this simple piece of unwanted trash.  But I had taken this thing and assigned value to it.  And I can make it more valuable by adding some more time and thought to it.  Just like the rest of the junk I've collected.  I've served the common good by picking up trash on the side of the road, and I can add value to the world by making art out if it.  That's adding money to the economy at the same time that I'm cleaning up my community.

So I allow myself my drink.  I allow that man his frozen pizza.  I allow value to be more than just cash and paychecks.  I can assign value, and adjust it.  I'm not tied to somebody else's restrictive means of assigning value.  Maybe they think that I'm lesser of a person because I collect trash and only make ten bucks an hour-- or work for free as a volunteer!  But even those values are not the monetary meaning we assume they are.  My time and labor can't be estimated and configured to equal a dollar amount.  If I collect garbage, arrange it into a piece of art in my garage, and then make it "available" to art collectors, what should all of that cost?  If I do it well, I might find that I can charge a significant amount of money for the art that I produce. 

All of this is part of exposing the smoke and mirrors that our culture is based upon.  The monetary system is a farce.  A joke.  An illusion, at best.  My heart isn't worth a million dollars, or even a trillion dollars.  My guts and toil and effort are valuable, whether I get paid or not.  Whether I get noticed or not.  Whether it makes a difference to anyone or not.  If I take pride in what I do, then there's value in doing it.  How much value is up to me to decide, and I don't have to put a dollar sign on it for it to mean something.

If I do ten situps and ten push ups a day every day for a year, how much will that cost me?  How much will I benefit?  We don't always see the value in doing things that way in our culture today.  We're more likely to invest money in a treadmill or a gym membership.  Why must we always start with spending money? 

Because it's in the rules of the game.  Hell, you might even say it's the American Dream.  Work hard.  Get a mortgage.  Pay homage to the economy.  Worship the almighty dollar. 

We don't need money any more than we need jobs or government or a president.  We can add value to the world just by being ourselves.  Just by doing what is right by ourselves and unto others.  Go ahead-- get taken advantage of.  Buy the frozen pizza for the hungry guy.  Even though your budget is tight.  You can make lemonade.  You can be the change you want to see in the world.

So what are you waiting for?  Go do it!

1 comment:

Deb said...

Inspiring! I caught the metaphor of you picking up two pieces of "trash" because of the value. The little piece of orange has artistic value, and obviously the hungry man, whom most of society would cast aside as "trash", has value because he exists. Love you.