Monday, January 1, 2024

Quick nunchi in Costco

If you can't beat 'em, join Costco.

After eschewing Costco for most of my life because it symbolized lame overconsumption in my mind, I finally succumbed and joined.

"Wait, you never had a membership," the clerk said as I signed up.

"No, never."


Do I look like a Costco member? What does that even look like? Why didn't he believe me?

I liken myself to an artiste of sorts, kind of like Thurston Moore from Sonic Youth, downtown New York, East Village or Lower East Side. Why would I be in freaking Costco?

Is there some sort of spiritual connection happening in Costco as we revel in oversized pot pies, 3-pound bags of tortilla strips and 15 packs of coconut water? Is God speaking to us?

Eh, I'm not so sure that exists because it seems so mindless. Do we even notice each other as we grab our 40 packs of spring water and 10 packs of Kleenex? Are we supposed to notice each other? How do I blend in among these big-ass pumpkin pies and chocolate cakes?

In stark contrast to my foray into Costco, I just read a small book called The Power of Nunchi: The Korean Secret to Happiness and Success by Euny Hong. Nunchi has no true translation in English, but it's perhaps best described as "reading the room" or seeking first to understand or, for me, finding power in not speaking.

I suppose I take a lot of American culture for granted, such as self-promotion and the myth of individualism. On the other hand, I don't know if I can accept Costco. On some level, that big ole warehouse just ain't right!

Do we really need all of this stuff? Isn't it a bummer that so much of our culture is disposable? Do you think I will use three cans of Reddi-wip, or is that two and a half cans too much?

While rolling my supersized shopping cart in Costco, my mind drifts to the nunchi book and how nunchi differs from empathy. While I take it as a given that one should strive for empathy, Hong questions that.

Empathy puts the focus on one's self other than the actual person. We try to "put ourselves in their shoes." But shouldn't we really just listen, soak in what the person is saying and allow them to be seen and heard?

I've often chastised myself for overtalking. I am just so hilarious and insightful that it's best that I talk over as many people as possible so I can be beheld in all of my glory. ... Uh, not the best look.

So as I push my oversized shopping cart, I get out of my head and notice what I see. People appear jostling for space and time. Many do not, or cannot, consider the others around them. This is consumption. This is California. This is Costco.

I do not have any answers, but I'm developing questions. Are we just members of the consumption class? If it's disposable, does it have any worth?

Why do I rush so much? Why I am happiest when my mind is blank? Why must you get a three-pack of guacamole when I just want one?

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