Sunday, January 04, 2015

'LIFE the sale'

The other day I passed a sign plastered outside a deparment store in my suburb of Yokohama advertising 'LIFE the sale'. (Complete with that rather odd and arbitrary font-style.) This phrase struck me as a little bit better than weird, almost beguiling and brash in its impenetrable 'huh'? I have no idea what, in practical terms, in strictly physical terms, was being sold at such a bargain rate, whether 'life' referred to the specific brand-name of a product, or a generically shiny assembly line of new goods, but that quick glimpse of the banner got me thinking about 'life' as a concept, its wholesale value and merits.

Couldn't one argue that we are all constantly selling 'life' to the highest bidder we can find? Usually, that's us; often, its others, occasionally what we might like to call 'God'. Rarely, sadly, nobody's buying, because nobody's interested.

Life is such a parasitic enterprise, no? Pretend otherwise all you want, but the market-based economy extends to ourselves. We offer up what we are to loved ones and stranges for far less than we're worth. (Or else we overestimate our own value, and are  subsequently shocked to discover only small change offered in return.) Our physical selves, our personalities, our endless mind-games -- constantly seeking for an 'other' to partake and exchange in our crude sense of barter.

Read another way, 'LIFE the sale' could be rendered as a blatant form of 'sell-out'. Scrapping our dreams. Giving up on our wants. Settling for whatever. Taking what we can get. Diluting our own worth because it's no longer worth much

Or how about this: 'Life' as a place where all things must go. Isn't that the usual, blatantly commercial connotation of what a nice sale should be? A specific time in a season where the leftover stock must be sold at all costs. There's a desperation to that reading, an urgency, a push. Somebody will buy us. Somebody will want us. We will find a home. A cozy place will be made for what we can do.

I didn'push my luck, though. I didn't go into that store. I didn't want to wander the aisles and find out just what the slogan meant. A spooky, I want to say, 'legitimate' chill kind of went through my chest as I scanned that strange sign. (You could blame such a cold spell on the January air of Japan, but I know otherwise. I felt it.) If I had walked into that shop, and casually looked for what 'life' was, idly pursuing what 'sale' I could find, I fear that something might have happened to me, TWILIGHT ZONE-style in its final strange zonk.

All those shining white lights. (So bright, almost perky!) Row after row after inventory-filled aisles. (Like children at gym class, praying they're not picked last for the team!) I suspect that I would have, very quickly, perhaps even instantly, come to believe that this was the one place where I could truly fit in. (If only for the short time that it took for me to be bought, then dispersed.) 'Life' as a store, with me as the product. Not such a bad way to live. Everything out of my hands. Relying on others to determine my worth. There's a relaxed, almost laxative-like relief in knowing that it's not up to me anymore. My life as somebody else's new click-ordered endeavour. This blaring, soothingly antiseptic place where I'm assembled and valued and promptly made ready to be shipped out to those who eagerly requested and seek some kind of my self.

That doesn't sound half-bad, which is why I turned away from that sign and scurried the hell home just as fast as I could.

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