Impulsive vs. Reflective

I have learned, the hard way, to avoid the impulses that drive one to make impulsive purchases.  I have learned to define my desire for said product through separation.  Take a step away from it, I say to myself, think about it.  Try to take the “newness” element out of the product and imagine it on you, in you, or under you for long stretches of time.  The problem with these impulses I have is that they drive me to purchase some shocking, ridiculous, and useless products that satisfy some sort of short-term need for characterization.

Craftsmanship means as much to me as anyone else, but when it comes time to purchase something, the subtlety of craftsman’s curve in a rocking chair has never spoken to me.  I prefer a new-age piece of furniture that has some innovative sex appeal that has an exclamation point behind it.  I want a piece that causes people to ask questions that have no suitable answers.

shoesHad I followed the impulses that have controlled me at various points in my life, I would now be driving a bright orange Jeep with black trim.  I might even have a bright yellow colored living room with equally bright orange furniture, and some kind of multicolored carpet that accentuates that theme.  I might also have a visually striking painting of a screeching gargantuan, gold eagle, with beaming blood red eyes, flying above shadowed villagers scampering to safety on a red felt background.  Those products would fulfill a definition I have of the immediate, shocking, discomfiting, and shocking elements of beauty.  It’s a definition of who I was, and who I am, that I know would shock my visitors into thinking there might be something we need to sit down and discuss before it gets out of hand.

Two things currently prohibit me from following these impulses: A wife and a child.  A wife, or any person on the inside looking in, tempers these impulses with rational refutation.  When a single man, with no children, follows his impulses, people assume that he may be psychologically damaged, and they laugh it off.  When that man has a child, however, that child has extended family members that care about that child and worry about that child’s well-being when they see that one of his role models has created a living room that requires sunglasses, and when one of that child’s role models also has a painting of a bloodthirsty eagle flying above doomed villagers, they begin to worry.

The other thing that prevents me from following these impulses now, is that I’ve been there, and done that.  I’ve been that person that others tried to understand.  I’ve been a person that others gave up trying to understand, until they conceded that the person they thought they knew is a lot weirder than they ever thought.  I’ve purchased a shockingly bright, baby blue pair of shoes that I considered an expression of my personal definition of beauty.  I tore these shocking baby blue pair of shoes off the shelves on sight and without thought.  I knew I was in for a psychological pummeling from those that consider anything different to be a source of ridicule, but I was willing to ride it out for the effect I thought the pair of shoes would have on my essence.

I was told to expect the worst from my classmates, if I had the temerity to wear these shoes to school.  “People do wear such shoes,” this friend warned.  “When they workout.  They don’t wear them at work, in school, or on the path to and from.”

Hindsight maybe 20/20, in this case, but I remember tingling with anticipation over the effect I thought this would have on my classmates.  I couldn’t wait to introduce them to the new me.  I then made a statement about the old me, by throwing away my old, sensible shoes.

Those that tried to prepare me for the psychological pummeling that would follow, would have been shocked at how successful my attempt to shock people was.  I lost loyal friends over it, as they attempted to distance themselves from me, for the purpose of avoiding the shrapnel.  I thought of a short story called The Boy with the Bright, Baby Blue Shoes.  I remembered a nature documentary in which a pack of hyenas brought a zebra down bite by bite.  My sympathy for that beast churned to empathy after this moment in my life.  For those that have pined for a moment in my life in which I was judged for my actions, this was one of the many.  It did not feel good.  It felt pretty awful.  If you’re going to judge others, however, you had better be prepared for them to judge you.  I wasn’t then.  I am better prepared now, thanks –in part– to a moment like this one that I’m sure some of those that were there still remember as a ‘Do you remember where you were when …’ moment.

I did not have the confidence, or temerity necessary to stare these people down.  They broke me.  I learned from it.  I learned that when one dares to be different, there are whole bunch of guidelines and borders, and most of them are superficial.  A wearer of bright, baby blue shoes becomes a wearer of such shoes, until that person becomes a barometer of agreed upon truths that need to be agreed upon in the most brutal fashion possible.

At some point, I did find the subtle beauty of a craftsman’s curve in the gap of others’ writings, in certain lyrical phrases, and in the margins of dialogue and characterization.  I discovered something in the intended, and unintended, philosophical truths of various artistic expressions of craftsmen.  In those phrases, lines, paragraphs, and comprehensive thoughts, I discovered a shockingly different beauty that replaced my need for superficially shocking modifications.

I am also a sucker for innovation.  My impulses drive me to purchase the latest and greatest technology my fellow man has devised for me.  This has led me to spending a great deal of money in the “As Seen on TV” aisles of prominent stores, and the “As Seen on TV” stores in malls.  I purchase these products in the hope that they will simplify otherwise arduous and mundane tasks, but I’ve purchased these types of products so often that I now know that whatever short-term convenience these products provide pale in comparison to their suspect long-term durability.  These innovations do sell, of course, because people, like me, get amped up on the idea that a collapsible garden hose will free up so much space on my back patio.  The question I ask myself, now, when faced with the impulses that drive me to purchase anything that will make my life easier is, ‘If this product were as great as the more traditional products in the aisle, these products would be in the aisle, and the boring, traditional products that my dad and my grandfather used, would now be on the end cap of the aisle, or the end cap of a mall, for those that insist on using the more traditional and ‘less convenient’ products.’

A bright, baby blue pair of shoes will eventually become nothing more than a pair of shoes, in other words, a Jeep will become a vehicle for transportation, and a chair will eventually become something to sit in, until the effect of being shocking is drained from it, and you’re left looking at a pair of shoes that you’re now embarrassed to wear to school, to the office, and to and fro.  The person also realizes that these products provide onlookers a lot of data about the person that purchases them in a manner that the purchaser did not intend to make every day over the long haul.  It was just an impulse that drove one person to make a short-term, and not very well thought out, statement about who they were that day, and at the time of purchase.  Every day beauty requires the subtle forms of beauty that grow on a person, and they learn that over time.  I decided to go with a white Jeep.


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