And the meals—the never-ending stream of meals that had to be eaten every day. Our sense of self-worth seemed tied up exclusively with the appreciation of food. We ate to work, we worked to eat.
–Adapted and taken out of contexts from Lu Xun’s In Memoriam
The explorers are bankrupt. Our globe is handheld and the only thing that stirs an interest is what fits in the mouth. Culture has been narrowed to cuisine, for what else could we hang the title on? And experience has become a synonym for party. Are we not living in the happiest and most abundant age?
As I wait in line before the imposing façade of the security check at the airport, it suddenly comes to me that this is all bullshit. Not just the pat-downs and metal detectors or the line with innumerable people laughing into their mobiles and the luggage—oh god, the luggage— no, not just that. The vacation itself. A sliver of wasteful pleasure to stick into a dull routine. A crystal beach for my starving sense of aesthetic value. A fancy meal to dream on while I sleep the cocktails off. Culture! A week that promises to deliver culture. It’s all bullshit. Sure, some of this is fear of boarding the plane, but mostly this is a moment of clarity. You, too, have had this realization before but perhaps you let it slip away or ignored its presence altogether. Rest assured, my friend, it’s out there waiting for you.
The routine is predictable—secure employment that provides just enough to visit Starbucks everyday, eat out with friends, and put a little aside for that yearly or bi-yearly vacation. Boredom is balanced by little firecrackers of emotion—a growing catalogue of your diverse cultural awareness, your badge of modernity. I’m not speaking of most people in the world, because most people couldn’t dream of living like this, but the average expatriate, the ‘adventurous’ of the developed world, and a growing minority of Asia are courting this loop. After all, money is restless.
"The explorers are bankrupt. Our globe is handheld and the only thing that stirs an interest is what fits in the mouth."