What’s It Going To Be?

I’m a bit of a trailer junkie. I tend to spend a minute or two every day checking Yahoo, Apple, Ain’t It Cool — the usual suspects — for new movie trailers. Yesterday I saw the trailer for Russell Crowe’s next film, “A Good Year.”

Crowe plays Max Skinner, a ruthless, heartless Master of The Universe. His uncle, though — a warm and meaningful man — leaves Crowe his Italian villa, and all of the substantive, deep and simple childhood memories that come with it. In the closing scene, Crowe’s uncle (played by Albert Finney) says, “So what it going to be? Your money or your life?”

No one asked Bo Lozoff’s grandfather what he did for a living. He painted houses. What of it? How he earned money, Bo explained, didn’t define him.

I was reading Wired Magazine’s “How To” guide on the subway last week, and bumbled across this interesting passage:

Once people have food, shelter, and clothing, their happiness curve flattens out. The extra effort to earn a six- or seven-figure salary has a low ROI.

You’ve probably noticed that Starbuck’s sells CDs these days. I was there on Saturday morning, and noticed a display called, “The Essentials.” They were promoting The Beatles “Rubber Soul,” which is arguable essential. But it was the displays ad copy that really got my attention.

“Even the most comprehensive collection is incomplete without this one.”

And that’s it in a nutshell, isn’t it? Culture does not discern who you are, how whole you are, or what you’re worth by any substantive criteria. Happiness isn’t a factor of small moments of beauty or grace. Instead, it’s about what you do, what you consume, and what you own.

Are you counter-culture? You’re Volkswagen says so. Are you a upwardly mobile? You must be; you’re driving a Range Rover. Are you irreverent? Drink Zima! Are you traditional? Jack and Coke! Abercrombie and Fitch, Gray Goose, TalbotÕs, Oldsmobile, Dell, Patron, Gap, Canon, Sony, Johnson & Johnson, Anheuser Bush, USAir, American Express, Victoria’s Secret, Guinness, Acme, Ralph Lauren, Wonder, Exxon…

You are what you consume.

Abbi and I were floating on a diving platform in the middle of Leopard Lake, a tiny little lake down the street from my mom’s house, earlier this afternoon. Locusts were droning in the trees. Birds were chirping in the branches. Dragonflies were skimming the shoreline. The water was still, flat like glass. We sat and sat, quietly tracing the miniscule changes in color and shape from moment to moment…

‘Now this is it,’ I thought.

Not brought to you by anyone, not sponsored, co-branded, co-signed, or co-opted. Neither virtual, nor simulated, nor fabricated. Not sold, bought, or processed. It just was what it was: a genuine, beautiful moment unique from all of the moments that have come prior, or will ever come again. All of the money in the world couldn’t buy it, and all of the planning in the world couldn’t schedule it. The moment just was: quiet, calm, tranquil, mysterious… and then gone.

So what it going to be? Your money or your life?

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