After the boys left me at the end of Island Park, I started spending much more time with David, time which resulted in many conversations and queries over everything from the nature of business to the nature of existence. To be forthcoming, we had our issues. It’s never ideal for a business mentor to have a protege that has no desire to be a businessman.
“Why does the world need another business?” I asked. “We’re busy enough as it is.”
“Establishing business directs the activity and development of civilization,” he countered. “Business provides avenues of resource development and purpose. They enable people to feel fulfilled in what they do and help provide them with all of the needs in Maslow’s hierarchy.”
“Then why do so many of the people in the most industrious nation on the planet feel so purposeless and unfulfilled?” I asked. “Why, in this supposed first world civilization, where the free market of business is heralded as such a blessed system of salvation, are there so many people who worry that that they won’t have enough? Either they won’t have enough money to eat and keep a room over their heads, or they won’t have enough of whatever other product or products they’ve been conditioned to need in this wonderful system of magnanimous and beneficient development?”
David had a very long string of patience, but I could tell that my disdain for the system and the accompanying sarcasm pissed him off from time to time.
“Then what are you going to do, Steve?” he said. “If you’re not going to be a businessman. What’s your purpose here?”
I thought back to my time with the aliens and my commitment to write the world. Although I’d managed to get through the book, the world beyond had only been written in sporadic flourishes, and even then, they were often geared more toward philosophical diatribes that I could only imagine were remnants of the mind meld, my brain finding its way back from being stripped and reset.
“I don’t want to write this world,” I admitted to David. “It’s ugly and mean.”
“But it’s not just that,” David reassured.
“You’re right,” I said. “Its also unjust, wasteful, violent, and lacking in decency and common sense.”
“From a certain perspective, I suppose it is,” David said, leaning forward on his cane, “but from other perspectives, it is so much more.”
I knew that it was true. I’d already experienced too much beauty and love in this world to fully discount that this was a pretty incredible place. Yet the combination of a marketing mindset and the specter of industrialized globalism usually tends to throw me a bit off kilter, and trying to write of the world I imagined while being faced with a world that was expanding before me with ever-increasing gulps of our future was not so easy.
“Its just this whole market thing,” I said. “I just don’t fully understand its importance.”
“You don’t understand it’s importance?” David cocked his head to the side a little trying to understand the incredulity of my misunderstanding. “The market is how we exchange. It’s how people get their needs met.”
“But it’s not about meeting needs,” I retorted. “It’s about creating wants. By holding the power of the market in such high esteem, we keep finding this need to fill it with new stuff in order to make it tangible and live up to our expectations. But we only really need a portion of what it’s filled with. The rest of it is just stuff that we want. And to get more of what we want, we have to exchange it for what other people need.”
David took a long, deep breath. “Look, I know it’s not a perfect system…”
“But it’s the only one we’ve got? Is that really what your gonna feed me, David?” I asked. “Please don’t add that we’re still the best country in the world.”
“You know me better than that,” he assured. “And don’t interrupt me again. I have the talking stick.” He held up his cane.
I demurred and gave him the floor.
“This is the system that we’ve got,” he continued. “And it certainly is not the best system we can come up with. Nevertheless, it is the best system we’ve come up with so far. It’s one thing to see the flaws in the system. It is quite another to provide alternatives to them. If you feel compelled to sit back and point out the flaws, reluctant to give them the energy of writing them out, perhaps your energy would be better used by writing about the alternatives.”
“I’m not quite sure what the alternatives are.”
“Then perhaps you’d better get out there and find them,” he said without skipping a beat. “You know things can get better. Whether this whole alien thing you’ve told me about is true or a concoction of your over active imagination, I still believe that you’ve seen another way. Perhaps your purpose is leading the way toward it.”
“I’m not quite sure how,” I said.
“Probably not,” he assured, “but you know why, and it may just be that that’s enough for now. Once you find the how, it can be systematized. But I admit that finding that how can’t be done with an industrial mindset, and it may just be that your inability to industrialize makes you the perfect candidate for the job.”
One of the things I always loved about David was his ability to see me as more than just a nut job. Since finding me passed out in the park and hearing my fantastic tale of alien abduction and grand mission, he had yet to take out a restraining order or have me committed for closer evaluation. I appreciate that in a person.
I think it was because of his ability to see the layers in people that I was so inclined to heed his suggestions and encouragements. If he could see it in me, perhaps it was there.
Steve McAllister is the author of The Rucksack Letters and How to Survive an Estralarian Mind Meld. He posts regularly at InkenSoul.com and is currently the Director of Operational Development for the Common Wealth Time Bank in Sarasota, Florida. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.