Are you listening? Are you there?
Let’s take it back to Karen at the retail store.
Let’s turn on our open minds as well as our infinite disgust at the fact
that not one thing has ever been written that could reliably de-Karen-ize a human being immediately.
Let’s turn on our hope that we’re just one weird metaphor away from really sensing what makes you ready to be unpleasant.
This isn’t universal morality, mind you.
Just something to tame a heart ready to pounce.
If I am to fail at de-Karen-izing the average human interaction,
let this be cradled by someone who hoped things would be different,
but could tell they didn’t have to be.
So, retail worker, service worker, loyal, loving employee…
do you ever feel a bit like you’re on display?
Do you ever feel rather disgusted at your vulnerability?
Do you ever feel resented for representing good behavior?
Do you ever feel like you’re guaranteed to have your buttons pushed?
Well, of course you would.
But…. no matter how many people say or do things big or small,
The world is still so intolerably aggravating that you could smash your face into the conveyor belt and cry.
It’s almost like…..there’s something inside of a bad customer which is impossible to defeat because……it’s not even really that evil to begin with!
Almost like deep inside yourself, you feel like you’re actually kind of a Karen too. Like you have some kind of essence that makes difficult people coming up impossible,
because in some way, you crave and respect that human difficulty,
as people start doing when their brains get big and their hearts go strong.
Yes, that deeply mysterious essence.
How about you try reading the previous two posts and understanding what’s meant by the spirit of playfulness and the will to power?
You see, people, especially certain types of customers,
enjoy casual lovely little displays
of strength and competence
in an interesting, exciting, fun little context.
And inside of those moments, said customers are overflowing with a sense of clarity and and steadiness.
A feeling of beautiful balance in their desire.
Yes, that odd feeling in your heart.
(If you’d read season 8, you’d know exactly what I was talking about. That being the willingness to make trouble to solve things, the readiness to be unpeaceful to fight exploitation, and the eagerness to generate discomfort in everyone, even you, to prove you have a real heart somewhere in there).
The hardest thing to fight might be a person who is entirely convinced about
their desires having a humbly elegant quality, and whose desires actually really are.
Desires which involve something more than either hedonism or altruism.
Wishes with adaptability and intelligence. Goals that are measured and considerate.
How do you stop them?
What kind of allegory could possible change that?
I think if you think about it hard enough,
the sensation a Karen gets
before making their daily debut,
is similar to the feelings one gets
when approaching a pinball machine.
(please tell me you know the game)
I mean, look at those high scores. Just sitting there. Just waiting there.
Look at that. Wow. Hmm.
What kind of desires do you feel when seeing a list of high scores?
How about the rankings of top players in an online game?
Or maybe it’s test scores that get you going?
Perhaps the stock market is what moves you?
Or the status levels of ultra-cool assassins in a movie?
That one’s my favorite.
When gazing at those high numbers and dreaming of your own achievements,
you feel something which might be called “envy” or “ambition”.
But it’s something a lot chiller than that, a lot calmer than that.
A lot more sane and clear headed than that.
You find out ways to let your desires simmer and marinade.
Like someone ready not to simply become #1, but to live the struggle of getting there,
and savor the weird dramas of being top ranked, as well.
I’m not really that good at pinball, but I get the appeal a whole lot.
And I’ve felt this way when looking at the high scores.
I think this emotion, this state, is definitely comparable to
how difficult customers feel before they turn a request for help, into a conflict with more daring and more spice, before even getting there.
Now, we could focus on the sensory appeal of the store’s fancy counter and cash register, much like a pinball machine and its oh so many flippers and lights.
Or the way it feels comfortable to let your energy out at that little station of interaction where you can keep a good posture and hold buttons down for some numerary purpose.
We could also focus on the gravity of the pinball, the need to keep the ball up and moving, and a Karen’s sheer pride and readiness for having things go her way, ready like a finger.
We could focus on the zany activity within the machine, under the glass, and a bad customer’s willingness to have things go awry, with the server begging for simplicity.
We could even use the willingness to pay a coin to play the game as a metaphor for the oddly courageous sensation a Karen gets when about to be upstanding or belligerent.
Do you feel it now, the heat within a Karen’s heart?
That magical feeling in your own?
Yes, these are perfect examples, aren’t they?
But I’m going to emphasize the high score table most of all.
Think carefully about what I’m about to tell you.
I’m going to explain the vibe you give off and wish you didn’t.
I’m going to expand your understanding of your vulnerability,
and elicit more than a little bit of rage about how it’s impossible,
to keep a Karen from being appetized by your look and feel.
Because it won’t happen without something so much as
a paradigm shift in humanity so great
it would make every book ever written
about how to act nicely to others
feel like desperately striking at the wind,
or smashing one’s fist into concrete
My dear retail worker.
Backbone of so many things.
Absurdly underexplored by discourse.
Silent pariah of the educational system.
(Which should really be destroyed).
Once I explain this to you, do not get mad and lash out at others.
Simply try reading these past five seasons.
And understanding why others simply feel innovatively playful and modesty powerful
and learning to control those ridiculously intricate feelings that make you feel
like your heart is impossibly well-put-together and tremendously strong as well.
In the next moments, I want you to try and fall out of love with
what makes desire feel beautiful rather than ugly.
And take the first step
in making this human experience
or these supermarket encounters
finally no longer such
a happiness-killing nightmare at worst
and an awkward dream at best.
Here is the answer you’ve been seeking.
As well as my jump off the diving board.
I am finally retiring from this format.
I bow my head….
but that uniform you’re wearing.
That posture you have.
That tone of voice.
That control you show.
It’s all a little bit bogus, right?
You’re being paid to act like you’re the shining example
of how a human being should act in public.
“Look at me, I’m officially doing okay
at the conquest of politeness”.
“Right now, in this moment, my good-vibes score
is definitely higher than yours”.
Now, to a person without many hobbies, to someone discontented with their own public treatment, approaching some worker in such a status feels like not a chance
to get revenge on the universe,
but rather, a great moment
to get one’s hands a little bit gritty.
To become more expressive than normal.
To throw shade, as we say.
Just as a pinball player might not even feel an overwhelming desire
to go for the high score of the day,
(just as I may feel when going for a good rank in Hearthstone)
a sensation remains in your heart that says
I’m ready to be pretty fucking engaged rather than hold back entirely.
You say, you feel, I’m ready get my heart lightly ablazed for the sake of proving
that I am a person who knows how to do things that involve
others being more difficult than they know they should be.
To a high score player,
to a retail tormentor,
to an angry boss,
to a physical abuser,
to conductors of war,
and elicitors of genocide,
there is a strangely mild and well-controlled sensation deep within the heart that says,
I am showing competence and cleverness in the face of people being challenging to me.
Tell me, would it ever be wrong to savor the joy of being clever and competent in the face of people
who are at the ready to be difficult with you?
Absolutely not, right?
Especially when it comes from witnessing the odd mix of selfishness and dignity
that retail workers give off like an aroma.
Culture itself is practically nothing but these situations as well.
You don’t get mad reading Aseop, do you?
Thereby, there is nothing insane or mentally ill about looking at a cashier,
“this is my chance to present a bit of difficulty
to match the mildly grandiose vibe they give off.”
Everyone knows that a high score can be taken down.
People at the highest highs of eagerness to feel playfully powerful
(come up with your own most sickening examples of the misery created)
know that they could not be the peak of such human energy.
And yet, the draw of being so….is far too lovely to resist.
Karens gather their tokens, and with a feeling of balanced composure,
insert them into the machine that is you,
and add a little flavor to their lives.
Yes, the store counter is the bored extroverted adult’s version of the arcade.
You, shopper-helper, are vulnerable and tempting
because you’ve wrapped up being nice and good and decent
in this utterly game-like display,
in the delicious space between sincere and phony.
You are so appealing.
Like a puppy so cute you might accidentally squeeze its neck.
Passive but imposing, almost like a nation forcing trade.
Like a thief coming up with interesting excuses.
Like a court jester responsible for the vibe of the room.
So tempting to do battle with, you are.
Who wouldn’t want to push your buttons?
Who wouldn’t get riled up for a bit of conflict?
Well, do you understand the banality of evil now?
That term I borrowed so awkwardly?
(I want you to scream at how good this is at describing your life)
Do you see how things have reached the disgusting point of genocide before?
Do you see how conformity with carnage doesn’t feel obscene at all?
It all starts with wanting to have a slight edge over difficult people,
and there isn’t anything unhealthy or gross about that feeling.
Adults need that feeling to feel like they even have hearts at all.
that very sensation is what has to be defeated.
in order to make human interaction no longer a nightmare.
You know it’s a nightmare every time
you set foot in the bizarre space between you and everyone else.
To end this nightmare, to pause the game, you must learn to feel
what makes your desire feel like
a cool little supernova of human greatness.
And banish that feeling when interacting with anyone.
But not by isolating yourself.
But no, rather, by playing excellent games that really do please your heart.
Because the warm glow of possibility is what drives people to act.
And we have yet to drain it from our constant interpersonal struggles.
Are games really not the perfect sewer for it?