Today, Blockbuster Video Teaches Us Why Life Sucks, and What We Can’t Do To Fix It

23 Apr

Totally unrelated. This picture just creeped me out and I had to let you all get creeped out with me.

There’s a classic Onion video on frumsatire today about Blockbuster video. In case you haven’t seen it, go do it, and then come back, because I’m about to kill a great joke:

Basically, the video, made a few years back when Blockbuster still had stores, pretends an actual Blockbuster store is a historical museum. An actor playing a ‘customer’ tells the listening tour group about how she had to drive 6 miles each way to pick up and return a video. Other people are interviewed expressing amazement at the trouble early video watchers had to go through in order to watch a movie. It’s hilarious and perfectly done, but it still makes me feel sad.

I remember when watching a movie was exciting. You had to go drive to the store and look around till you found one, and actually pay for it. And once you were there, you could pick up a giant box of candy or popcorn or something. Watching a movie was an experience. There was a whole adventure part to it that’s gone now.

And I know I’m sounding a bit stupid pining for the good old days here, not appreciating how technology has made our lives easier and so on. But I think this is a real point. What’s the whole point of watching a movie? To escape the monotony of our lives for a while and live a more exciting one for a little bit, right? And ostensibly, getting the movies faster would save time and money and let us enjoy these pleasurable moments more often too, right? Yet, it doesn’t seem to work out like that. Because actually getting the movie was usually more exciting than watching it. And looking back, I think it’s obvious why. You had to go out on a special mission to find something for you and your friends to enjoy. That was real. Even though the movie itself was fake. Even though the movie didn’t stay in your head till the next week or even day, the trip to get it did. Because it was a break from the ordinary. Because sometimes you met weird people along the way, or encountered small obstacles in your journey that you overcame, or find slightly cool, different types of candy than usual. All the time you spent was fulfilling. You were doing something that mattered. You were getting the best movie so you could have the best time with your friends.

I think that’s the way it is with all of life. And why all the conveniences we have available today aren’t making us (or me, at least) any happier. All the basic things that we used to have to do to survive are done for us. Yes, you can bake a cake, or build a birdhouse, or even shoot a deer for food. But it’s all pointless. Your real value in this world is being a cog in the machine to make something for someone else and get paid for your time wasted. Anyone else can do what you do. Millions of people are right outside the door waiting to take over as soon as you drop out. Unless you find a niche that nobody else is taking care of, you, as an individual, are worthless. You have no intrinsic value. You aren’t needed at all. 

And I think that’s uncomfortable, at a very basic level, for anyone to feel. It makes you uneasy, insecure, even scared. If you aren’t contributing anything to the pack, you can be easily replaced and be out on the street as soon as someone else decides so. You are powerless over your own future, over your own survival.

I think you can do a shit job and be happy if you’re supporting a family. Then people need you, you’re always welcome. But the insecurity of your job can probably kill you even more then. You’re investing your whole worth into this small group of people. If you can’t provide, you have no more value to them. This will always be true on some level. The only people who are free of this are naturally secure people. You’ve met a few in your time, I’m sure. These are people, who, for whatever reason, are confident in themselves. They don’t have to worry as long as they’re still around. It’s not a logical feeling. It’s emotional. Based on a good childhood and probably some good genes too. These people are really living life. Doing what they want to do on this planet.

Religion gets you out of all this. Gives you security, purpose, value, no matter what. But it’s the easy way out. And deep down, most people don’t rely on it. Oh, they tell themselves over and over and try to “work on their emunah”, to “bolster their faith”, but that’s because they don’t have any in the first place. When the chips are down, they’ve never seen God, never relied on it. Many people say they have, yet even though they have plenty of money, still slave away trying to make as much money as they can, to stock away in the bank. They are collecting a “nest egg”, a “parachute”, etc. That’s what people really believe in. That’s the security that lets them sleep at night. 

I know I have no way to prove this, but I’d bet the people who really believe, who really rely on faith, are a tiny percentage. A few guys in lakewood who are dirt poor and DONT survive on federal funds or parents or relatives. Some random other people sprinkled around whose life isn’t spent making money. They may or may not be living a fantasy, but those people are really living too. Meandering rant over.


12 Responses to “Today, Blockbuster Video Teaches Us Why Life Sucks, and What We Can’t Do To Fix It”

  1. BHB April 23, 2012 at 10:19 am #

    I like this post. Bottom line is, that in the end (right or wrong), the believers win. In the meantime the only advice I can offer is that it is the journey, not the arrival at the destination, that makes life enjoyable. It’s the “yegia”, not the knowledge of the toisfos that made learning fun. It’s the acquiring of the skill and knowledge (music, math, science, anything), not the ability to perform and the knowledge that makes life enjoyable.

    • Anon. April 23, 2012 at 12:00 pm #

      Or as Miley Cyrus put it…it’s the climb. (forgive me for mentioning her, but, to her credit, it was a good song.)

  2. chaynobody April 23, 2012 at 11:03 am #

    Wow! You exactly hit on an issue that had been bothering me for so long. I live in a VERY Frum neighborhood where, for example, no one would even dream of stealing from the neighbors, yet it has been so clear for me for years that few, if any, actually believe in Hashem! So many will do anything and everything to try not paying tax, every trick not written in the book, or try avoiding paying building fees, or similar. If they honestly believed that EVERY PENNY they made came directly from Hashem, then why bother trying to “fix” the system? It’s clear they dont honestly think that God is looking out for them. But of course, they will call it “hishtadlus”… fakers…

    • itchemeyer April 23, 2012 at 9:06 pm #

      Yeah. Bullshit is not in short supply.

  3. Tinok ShenishBeth April 23, 2012 at 10:51 pm #

    Well that wasn’t very cheerful. I’m just gonna go hang myself from the shower curtain rod now…

  4. Tinok ShenishBeth April 23, 2012 at 10:56 pm #

    Oh, and just so you youngsters know… When I was growing up, there weren’t even VCRs in every home. (Anyone remember Beta?) You had to go to the actual movie theatre to see movies.

    • tesyaa April 24, 2012 at 9:44 am #

      (Anyone remember Beta?)

      I remember, I remember, I remember…

  5. bestbathroombooks April 27, 2012 at 1:40 am #

    Good post, however meandering it may be.

  6. eyekanspel April 28, 2012 at 8:52 pm #

    Great post. I love your blog. I wish I had more patience to write my own. I only wrote a couple posts a few years ago, but it’s still shocking for me to see how different my views were then as compared to now. I just came from where I was listening to some clips and feeling really nostalgic. It really had me wishing for the “good old days” when everything was simple and made sense. Fuck adulthood.

    • itchemeyer April 29, 2012 at 1:08 am #

      Thanks! I know what you mean. I recently reposted a piece i did a year ago, and I was thinking how I could never write something like that today. Nice to see you though, eyekan.

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