Cyber Mondays and Human Experiences
By Manion Kuhn
It’s Cyber Monday, a fairly new extension of the American consumer holiday, Black Friday. Some shopping centers extended deals as early as “Orange Wednesday,” which was promised to “be the new black.” The local midday news coverage included a report from inside an Amazon shipping facility in Indiana. Projections estimate that over thirty-six million purchases will be made today, just from the e-tailer giant.
My preoccupation with defining the authentic human experience in the Information Age is insatiable. I have come to believe that our best lives are lived outside of reality television and literally endless twitter feeds. I believe that living should include moments when you look into someone else’s eyes and then look back at the world in a different way, and you’re changed because of that experience.
There are both too much and not enough said about capitalism in America, but there’s almost nothing said about how we can choose to live our daily lives in response to this environment. Other than incidental food/latte purchases, I haven’t bought a single thing during my Thanksgiving holiday. Buying something, in real life or in the virtual marketplace, gives us real pleasure. We get to take the thing(s) we just bought home and rip them out of their packaging, or anxiously anticipate its (their) arrival at our doorstep via UPS (or drone). We believe these products will bring us happiness, or at least function satisfactorily. That’s why we bought them!
The real heroes of my Cyber Monday aren’t hot Internet deals or even available in stores. They’re the one-of-a-kind sensory experiences I’ve had so far today. They came at almost no cost to my bank accounts, and some of them aren’t experiences I can have often. Here they are: I woke up without an alarm to early-morning sunlight streaming into my room; I pushed the submit button that sent my electronic college application to a computer somewhere in Lower Manhattan in New York City; I experienced the simple satisfaction of brewing an entire pot of rich dark roast for myself with the coffeemaker my parents received as a wedding gift in the late eighties; I enjoyed using my ability to put pen onto paper and watch as my thoughts and feelings were mysteriously translated and contained within sentences and paragraphs; I danced throughout my house by myself to the distorted sounds of new alternative music through an old radio; I stuck post-it notes with to-do items onto my desk (it’s oddly gratifying); and I stepped outside, into the early December cold, as I do every morning, and experienced the feeling of my bare feet on a cold, gray sidewalk, watched dying, brown leaves blow across the street, embraced the slight warmth of the sun, and watched my neighbors take their early-afternoon walks, and I felt like a minuscule part of something much grander than my own consciousness.
Every day I attempt to live the authentic human experience. All of these things, the things that have made me most joyful today, didn’t come from a store. There’s this ineffable quality to a genuine human experience that I do my best to try to capture in words and phrases. Find things in your daily life you already have that connect you to yourself, and to something much bigger. And if you feel the need to exchange money for something, donate a dollar to themondaylife.org and use your consumer power to make a difference. We live in an amazing world, but it gets even better if you know how to experience it.