| 2 MINUTE READ | The small truces between culture and capitalism
My driver’s family returned to the village during lockdown. He moved into a shared dormitory where he pays 5% of his salary as rent. With physical classrooms reopening, he is making plans for his family’s return. Preparing to part with 30% of his income for house rent. Living with his wife and young son in a big city is not financially efficient. But there are other metrics beyond the mercantile, held by the heart and honed by culture, that guide us to choose the things we do.
A neighbourhood bookstore, that closed its shutters under the double whammy of Amazon and lockdown, changed hands and reopened a few weeks ago. The large, high ceilinged glass walls drench the place with light. Giving the illusion of being outdoors while retaining the comfort of being indoors.
I went there this morning and wandered around the store. It was early and the place was empty and quiet. I looked at the collection of titles, scanning an array of shelves. Tested the sliding ladder to access the upper racks. It was lighter than I imagined. Circled neatly stacked tables, stopping to browse for a line or paragraph to leap out and hook me.
The slow pace gave me the raw satisfaction of an unmoored traveller. Content to explore and alive to the promise of unexpected discovery. Ordering books on Amazon provide a transactional velocity that is hard to match. I arrive at the platform with an author or title in mind and in a few moments, before the tea turns cold, am provided with a firm date of delivery. But the online world has distorted the emotion we associate with browsing. A world constricted into a mobile phone screen disregards the value humans derive from a tactile and organic immersion into the world of objects. By the end of my excursion I had a book of poems, two collections of short stories, a layman introduction to String Theory and a meditation on freedom and happiness. None of which I would have gone out looking for on Amazon. All of which, in different ways, express a human spirit to transcend the conditioning that makes us predictable consumers and pragmatic citizens.
Our lives are a swirling dance between the compulsions and conveniences of capitalism and the intuitive and healing tug of an expansive stillness that survives at the centre of our bodies. This morning at the bookstore, they settled into a sweet equilibrium with each other.