So I went down to the video store the other day to return this DVD that I’d forgotten about. It was about three weeks overdue and I thought I might get into big trouble, or at least have to pay a big fine. I really should look into netflix or something similar. So I threw the DVD in my backpack, and hopped on my bike.
When I got there, I realized I had a problem. There was no video store. It had been completely transformed into an auto parts store. I’m assuming it was an auto parts store because they had a gigantic stack of tires out in front, and this big inflatable gorilla on the roof, who happened to be purple. He was holding an inflatable sign that said something about that week’s particular sale.
I checked the back of the DVD. I was in the right address, and I double-checked the date. Whoops. It wasn’t due three weeks ago; it was due a year and three weeks ago. I checked the title. Nothing I remembered watching. But how did it get where I found it? Sometimes you find the strangest things in the strangest places.
For example, once I was in Taiwan, doing my laundry. I had been there for about eight months, and hadn’t seen American money in quite a while. So imagine my surprise when I found a dollar bill in there with my socks and jeans. How in the world did that dollar get there? Was it some message from beyond? Was it a sign from the gods of wealth? Was I hallucinating? I’m not sure, but a dollar is a dollar, if you catch my drift.
When I was a kid I used to watch those guys down at the beach with their metal detectors, hoping to find chests filled with gold and silver, or at least a quarter. I don’t think I ever recall watching them find something. I think I remember watching them bend down a couple times, and pick something up, but I don’t ever remember their faces showing delight or that expression you get when you experience sudden and unexpected wealth. It was more like an, “oh crap,” kind of expression. Then they’d look around, and then toss it back into the sand. Couldn’t have been worth much. I suppose people that do that have a couple different criteria that they are satisfying at once. Obviously, if they were after money, and only money, there are better ways to get it. But if they like the idea of searching for money, rather than finding it, while doing it a nice place like the beach on a pleasant afternoon, well, then I can understand why they’d go down there and take their sweet time.
It’s interesting when you take apart your desires, and really take a hard look at all your criteria underneath your desires. The other day I wrote something about “integration of parts” where you take something you’re after and figure out all the underlying criteria. Sometimes your criteria can surprise you. I’m sure most of those guys that were looking for coins at the beach would tell you they’re looking for money, but if you asked them how much they’d like to go home with, and then gave it to them in exchange for them not looking, they might not take your offer.
It’s a combination of wants and needs, largely unconscious that make up our seemingly conscious desires. And since most of our wants and needs have overlapping deeper criteria, it can be hard to change one thing without changing everything else.
Humans, and animals in general, are funny like that. Most of our biological parts serve a couple functions, at least. Take your hair follicles for example. The ones on your face, arms and back serve two purposes. One is to grow hair, and the other is to let out oil secreted by your sebaceous glands. It would be a waste of time to build two separate tubes on your skin, one for the hair to grow, and one for the oil, so nature built a shared piece of equipment. When everything is working together, you grow hair and keep your skin moisturized. When things don’t get along, you get a pimple. Or at least you did when you were in high school.
Same goes with unconscious intentions. Many times a behavior will serve two intentions. If the intentions are working well together, the behavior will be a good behavior, like smiling at people, or being patient in line at the supermarket when the goofball in front of you has eight billion coupons and then all of a sudden wants to pay in pennies when you’ve got that important meeting that starts in three minutes and if you’re late it will mean certain doom. Or something like that.
Of course in the above situation, it would be helpful to alter your behavior, such as take a step back and look for a line that is moving quicker. It probably wouldn’t do to well to strangle the guy, despite how good it would feel.
I was talking to a friend the other day, and he was telling me all the problems with the American educational system. He said the main problem is that this one humungous institution serves many different criteria, sometimes conflicting, and the learning of students, at least according to a few, is arguably not the most important. At least depending on how you describe education, which is one of those vague nominalized verbs that has as many different meanings as there are people who work in the system.
Anytime you tweak the system in one direction, you maybe increasing the effectiveness of one criterion, but lessening others, and that will cause immense pressure to move back to the status quo. Kind of hard of steer that ship, unless you crash it into a big iceberg, which you couldn’t see because so much of it was below the surface.
So after asking around, I figured out that the video store that had been there switched to pure mail order. So I’m stuck with this DVD that I don’t want to watch. They have my phone number and address, so I suppose that if they want to get a hold of me, they know where to find me.
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