So here I am, sipping a tall, cold glass of coffee in the middle of a busy shopping mall. Busy shopping malls always have this buzzing sound inside, a mixture of the talking that’s going on from every direction, music a floor above, footsteps, clanging pots and pans, and announcements over numerous speakers. But here in this little square space at the center of the second floor, the idea is to sip a tall, cold glass of coffee while having a good conversation with someone. It’s not at all engaging to talk in such an atmosphere but, hey, we paid for the table and chairs, so we might as well make use of their products and services.
I understand that coffee shops were originally places where people can sip cups of coffee while taking a break from the hustle and bustle of the cities. Malls though, ever the melting pot of modern life, have become the new destination for people who wanna experience that relaxingly good Western pasttime. Nevermind all that buzz, just try and have a soul-enriching experience while you’re here in this supposedly “peaceful” place.
They’ve got coffee shops in malls. Here in the Philippines, they’ve also got churches. And when a mall has a church and a coffee shop, you know it has everything you need. Products and services from all over the world converge in these simple, often barren buildings. Maybe malls are the new cultural centers of the world. Of course, whose culture you’re experiencing exactly is not clear-cut. Whatever culture you get in malls, it’s certainly more like a mongrel than a poodle.
I’ve really got no issues with it. It’s just another observation while waiting for my turn at the sleek, black laptop. I’ve got worlds to surf in an hour. As cosmopolitan the mall is, it’s really an ancient piece of architecture compared to the limitless dimensions of cyberspace. Kingdoms used to send ships stacked with riches and resources around the world just to put unchartered places on the map. Now, you just pay for an overpriced tall, cold glass of coffee in a simple, barren shopping mall to be a man of the world.
Man, it’s damn good to be living in these times. Just try to drown that buzz in your ear with an interesting (possibly “intellectual” conversation). And of course, don’t go out the mall’s gates.
Learn All You Want, then Burp or Fart
Have you ever felt bloated with information? I sure have. It used to happen to me all the time back at the university. If my head were my belly, I’d liken the experience to attending a huge party where the wealthy hosts serve every dish you can think of on a long, long buffet table. After your third plate, you don’t quite know whether you wanna sleep, stretch, or vomit. All you know is that breathing comes in shorter gulps of air.
Maybe it’s just my head. Maybe my head’s not suited for the peculiar pressures of this Information Age. If living in this Age were like riding a bus, I would be the dizzy, pallid passenger noisily filling a plastic bag with the breakfast I ate that morning. This article would be the noise that annoys you and other passengers.
The rate by which we process all the information in our daily lives is astounding. We’ve heard so much about so many things about this universe and the universe in its sh*t that you’ve no doubt already heard of the stuff I’m talking about. This article would just be another one of those articles discussing the fast dissemination and sharing of information in the modern world. It’s not original. It’s boring.
But goddamn it, we’re running out of original things to say and do. Or if there were original things, they come with a gigantic history of “things that have been said before” behind them that in the end, you’re able to say that “This sprouted from this and that, and so it became original just because of this little thing right here.”
To make my point clearer, consider a book you think is “original.” Because of the information overload we’re experiencing, you can trace the background or history of that original book from the huge pile of cliches that preceded it. In the end, it’s just part of this massive, complicated mess of information. Its message, while original (because of a paragraph or two), gets drowned. One step backward and one serious look at it are all you need to see that it went from being an original bestselling book to being crass and insignificant.
We’re like mini cultural hubs, at least those of us who have access to information. Some people are even so annoyingly cultured that they sound like they know every goddamn topic in the world. I’m sure you’ve talked to people like that — people who share information like they’re freakin’ Web search engines. It’s impossible to shake them off. They probably know more about your grandmother than yourself.
I’m saying all these things because I’m here in a coffee shop in a shopping mall. I’m watching people busily gorging on the information on their laptops. I can’t help but think of them as hungry eat-all-you-want customers. Their bellies must be bloated.