An "essay" written by friend/former colleague of mine Helen Buyniski calls for analysis the line between fantasy and reality in our world today. Where does this line begin and where does it end? Are we more valuable to ourselves and those around us when subscribing to a set pre-existing meanings? What questions can we gather upon reading this highly unique and instructional piece of abstract writing?
6:26p - IF IT COMES IN A BAG, IT'S NOT REAL--the definitive edition
By Helen Buyniski
TO ALL WOMB IT MAY CONCERN: spread the gospel of bag, for it is the way & the truth & the light & the...bag. seriously. take of this & read for it is my brain cell.
If it comes in a bag, it's not real.
This declaration is at first inscrutable. What kind of bag? What is "it"? Is this a threat?
Odd behavior patterns emerge quickly as one sinks forgotten into an uncomfortable wooden chair in the corner of an Upper West Side Starbucks, land of the free and home of the bland. In particular, one notes a phenomenon of depressed-looking girls with obvious body image issues shuffling up to the counter, clad in workout clothes, and ordering in a hushed and guilty voice an array of muffins, croissants, and sweet rolls they do not feel they have earned the right to eat. Upon leaving the counter, purchases clasped triumphantly in sweaty-palmed hands, they furtively nibble at the baked goods. However, instead of allowing even themselves a glimpse of the deliciously caloric pastries hidden in the small brown bags, the girls break off pieces inside the bag and raise these remorseful morsels to their lips. Obviously, if it comes in a bag, it isn't real.
I decided to really observe this parade of penance for the first time in the spirit of science and I could not help but notice how startlingly applicable this maxim is to other facets of life. Used by everyone from 12-step temperance fanatics to government propagandists, the marriage of bags and unreality seems to be ubiquitous.
The MTA's warnings against suspicious packages are infamous for their omnipresence and futility, and I propose that the reason for their failure lies in the deceptive nature of the bag. "Package" connotes briefcases, suitcases, even generic cardboard boxes, but due to some microscopic glitch in the human psyche, opaque plastic bags, no matter how large, are universally overlooked. People enter and exit the train laden with these behemoths of environmental destruction and no one bats an eyelash, even in the case of those bags not lent an air of legitimacy by the logo of some retail establishment. This has already proven dangerous in Japan, where the members of an extreme religious cult stashed bags full of Sarin all over Tokyo's subway. They ruptured the bags with their umbrella tips and released the gas all over the city, injuring thousands and killing twelve. Yet the NYPD searches backpacks and warns of baby-carriage bombs. This bag is not a toy, indeed.
The extreme example of the sinister-bag concept is obviously the body bag, used by everyone from wartime governmental regimes to mob bosses to render the dead nonexistent. Collateral damage? Turf battles? Do you see any corpses? If it comes in a bag, it's not real—at least, until it starts to smell. Though I'm sure our tax dollars are already being funneled into research directed at the creation of scent-proof bags; after all, the sensory pathway of the olfactory sense is the only one of the five that does not synapse in any conscious processing center of the brain, instead zapping straight to the amygdala, the primal fear center of the brain. A panicked public might be tough to control, especially if they're not willing to subscribe to your particular brand of panic. Suitcases connote an escape, a vacation, a recreational departure from their strictly regimented reality, and this must be demonized—bags, on the other hand, carry an implication of drudgery, an image of industrious crackheads lugging monumental vessels of plastic engorged with cans and bottles that will, eventually, be redeemed for a minuscule sum of cash. Bags are OK. Bags remind one of one's status in life. Being bent double under the weight of a gargantuan bag is an exercise in humility.
However, even a sinister, shadowy ruling class can pervert this all-purpose maxim to its ends. There, we see the forces of prohibition, from an anal-retentive nanny government to the poorly concealed front for Christianity that is Alcoholics Anonymous, shake their gnarled fingers, reminding us contrite little darlings as we shuffle our feet with remorse that those illicit pleasures we're buying on the corner—whether they're in tiny expensive bags, larger aromatic bags, or beastly paper bags that crackle with the prickliness of open container laws—are Bad For You. Even the most fine, upstanding citizen caught nursing a paper bag will be regarded at least with disdain and, if they're really lucky, with handcuffs. Not even the overpowering stench of irony generated by the average hipster can overcome the classic image of the Bowery Bum, sprawled out in a doorway with drool marching out of his mouth and onto urine-stained concrete. Even snack chips, once considered acceptable, have come into their bagged status as the anti-junk-food brigade moves to outlaw trans fats and, eventually, flavor. Vegetables and fruits come in clear bags, mystique-free—do you really want to eat those nasty, greasy, (tantalizing) Doritos anymore? The term is, after all, junk food—you're only one step from needles sprouting out of your arms, turning tricks on the street because you accepted the bet that you couldn't eat just one. Unreality, temperance advocates sternly admonish, is a slippery slope best not trodden by anyone.
Whether or not one chooses to embrace or fear the Bag, one cannot deny its power. I once saw someone walk into a bank with a plain black plastic bag and pull out wad after wad of neatly wrapped hundred dollar bills. To which I say: who needs reality, anyway? NOT[b][/b]