I love Wal-Mart and I am not ashamed to say so. I have no beef with its genius at making money while at the same time making things less expensive for everyone who decides to shop there. But, apart from this, I also love Wal-Mart because it seems to attract people I normally do not see anywhere else but at Wal-Mart. It is a great place to observe people. We’ve all seen the emails of “Wal-Martians” or the “People of Wal-Mart” and if they are not at least amusing they are at least true. I am still anxiously awaiting the Wal-Martian email chain that includes my backside. Needless, to say I counted myself lucky last week as I had the good fortune of having to visit Wal-Mart twice.
First Visit to Wal-Mart
The first time I had to visit Wal-Mart it was during my lunch break at work. I needed a stash of water at work since there is no water supply there. Wal-Mart is only a block away so I decided to make a stop there. Now, the place where I work, while the building and immediate surrounding area are nice the further out you go the rougher it gets. This Wal-Mart oddly enough sits in the middle of the area that transitions from sketchy to sketchier.
Being the efficient human being I am , I decided to multi-task and grab some lunch at the McDonald’s inside this Wal-Mart. After purchasing my waters, I rewarded myself for making a healthy choice by ordering a number one Big Mac meal. Ever since I first tasted a Big Mac at the age of 10 in Yakima, Washington after picking fruit with my family, I have been hooked on that special sauce.
As I sat there greedily anticipating my meal, two large scooters showed in our small waiting area. The scooters lined up to order and those of us who were without wheels had to back up and reposition our waiting spots. The younger of the two scooter drivers actually got out of her scooter and miraculously found the strength to not only walk up to the counter but also to carry her precious Chihuahua with her.
They soon called out my order and I picked it up and went to go fill my drink cup with soda. When no sooner had I finished with filling up my cup, I hear behind me the whirring sound of the one of the scooters. I quickly got out of the way and moved to the side as the man on the scooter pulled up to the soda fountain. The young girl again found enough leg strength to walk herself and the Chihuahua to the soda fountain and back just in time so as to avoid being ran over the man backing up his scooter.
I will not lie my first, second and third reaction to all of this was not charitable. I cursed our welfare system, our culture of entitlement, and all the taxes I pay for the increasing demand for these handouts. True as all of this was, I knew deep down inside of me that wasn’t the right attitude towards this tiny event and I know I had no light in me that afternoon and I did very little to understand or correct my attitude.
Second Visit to Wal-Mart
The next day, on Saturday, I took my son came, who had come into town Friday evening, to Wal-Mart to buy a new video game as a reward for not only sticking with football all summer but actually excelling at it, too. As we walked around the Wal-Mart and waited to get service at the electronics counter, I could not help but noticed a lot of different shapes, haircuts, looks, and styles on display. Many times when there was a lot to be displayed people did not hesitate to display it when they really shouldn’t have. Many of these shapes, clothing choices, haircuts, and tattoos did not represent the light inside of this people, but rather the choices seem to take on a deliberate gray rebellious indifference, an almost numbing nihilistic attitude.
Some may say at this point, that I am shallow and judgmental and they would be right. Some might even say I am hypocritical, but as a learning creature, as someone who is continually becoming, I reserve the right to always have some distance between what I truly believe and what I do or think at any point in time. I reserve the right to figure out and understand deep truths about this life. I believe this is the underlying meaning and purpose of our right and responsibility to pursue “life, liberty, and happiness.”
While it is true that clothes, haircuts, body size, or clothing do not make the man or woman, it is also true that people’s choices, most often deliberate, in these areas are done to make an impression upon the world. These choices are made to tell the world this is what I am about, like or leave it and therefore represent the light they want to share or cannot help but share with others.
I have lived in several poor places in this world and have experienced more light, happiness and joy in the destitute barrios I visited then what I observed in Wal-Mart last week. People are not consumed with making statements about themselves outwardly when they experience absolute, not relative, poverty. And, I think this is because when you have nothing, your vision does not get clouded about what is important about life. When you have nothing but your unadulterated self and your simple labors to share with this world, the light within you grows.
What Little I Know about Light
The mystery of light is not as mysterious as it may seem. Everyone is born with a light or conscience in them, a “divine spark” if you will. And while we materially may be bound to some of the evolutionary biological processes, our spiritual being and the light inherent in us is not. The purpose of this light or conscience is to help us know the difference between right and wrong in this life. This light grows or diminishes as we go throughout our lives based on the moral choices we make. And if we choose to expand our hearts and our minds we become enlightened. If we choose not to, then our light becomes dingy and dull.
But no matter what we choose to do with this light or what others try to do to lessen our light, it can never completely extinguish it and this is cause for humans to always have hope.
It is not by accident that light is often metaphorically associated with life, intelligence and truth. In fact, many of our actual biological processes are dependent on light. It is, therefore, no accident that as we learn to respect and positively experience and respond to life, despite its pain and suffering, the more we will be filled with this light. Light is added to our being the more that we earnestly seek and incorporate physical and spiritual truths about this world into our lives. Light is needed for spiritual growth.
To grow, light requires freedom and order to prosper. The freedom needed is the freedom from our naturally narcissistic selves. It is freedom from our pride, our vanity, our obsessions, and our addictions. The order required for the light within us to grow is not so much dependent on external order but on our ability to have order internally, or the ability to incorporate virtue or righteousness into our lives The same virtue that holds families and societies together is the same virtue that holds the individual together and provides individual peace. It also is by this virtue that our light can and is shared and it is by this light, despite its relative weightlessness, that we can edify and lift up each other.
As our light grows, we become a something beyond the one-dimensional Economic Being our politicians, businessmen, and bureaucrats see us as and become something more than just our present consumption habits. We slowly become a three-dimensional being: able to understand the lessons of the past, add perspective to present experience, and see the importance of the future.
Light and Darkness
Simply put if light exists, then its opposite is darkness. We are told that this light we are born with is “the light which shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not”. It is “a light which cannot be hid in darkness.”
Physically and spiritually light and darkness cannot occupy the same space. And darkness cannot occupy our hearts and minds unless we allow it to. While Light produces faith, hope, courage, clarity, charity and lasting happiness, it is darkness that brings on doubt, despair, depression, discouragement, distraction, confusion, misery and fear. Darkness has a spiritual weight to it that people can feel. However, darkness can be penetrated by the light.
While some may incorrectly think an aloof, brooding darkness is authentic, we know that our potential and our ultimately our authenticity as a human being comes by positively cultivating light in our lives. And when people try to counterfeit light with darkness on individual level, we count it as foolishness and their deception, if not apparent to them, is transparent to most.
But when a society tries to counterfeit light with darkness, it can be devastating to the soul of a nation and while it may not manifest itself immediately, it does not take more than generation for its ugly self to bear wild fruit that only a greed for power, conscious denial, blind selfishness or indifferent apathy could overlook.
Fortunately for most of us, we want light to prevail in ourselves and in our societies. We gravitate towards this light and when we have it we want to share it with others. And with that knowledge I know going into the future although it may not be easy nor without struggle, there is much to be optimistic and hopeful about.