February 11, 2018
If you have never been to Costco, it can be like going to another planet. I had been to the mega warehouse shopping club before, but it had been a while, maybe two years, and I had forgotten how it felt. I was originally supposed to wait for my wife in the car while she picked up a few things, but as soon as we parked I felt like exploring and decided to go in with her.
The first thing I noticed as we approached the entrance were the giant shopping carts. They look like something Fred Flintstone would use to pick up a few of his favorite dinosaur ribs. These extra-wide shopping carts should be the brand symbol of Costco (and really, of our consumer society), just looking at them made me chuckle. I was surprised nobody else was doing the same as little women half the cart’s size, pushed them around with their bounty inside: 48-roll packages of toilet paper, ‘10-pak’ loaves of bread, cake-size boxes of frozen chicken wings, a couple of dog mattresses for Fido, and a grease-laden cardboard box with pizza inside for the family at home.
Costco has the identical vibe of an amusement park. There, you can observe all kinds of people, each hankering to fulfill his or her desires in a feast for the senses. Costco advertises the benefit of warehouse prices, but I believe the real reason people like to shop there is because it’s okay to want multiples of everything—chocolate cakes, HD screens, house plants, underwear...whatever your fancy. Bottom line: Nobody at Costco is going to judge you for being an absolute glutton.
People wheel down the aisles with their Flintstone shopping carts grabbing and trying samples of food on every aisle cap. They are all running the same algorithm, unconscious of the forces that compel them to forage and stock up while it’s available in front of them. This is what gives them their zombie appearance. And maybe they are real zombies for all I know. I couldn’t help but to get a very “nobody’s home” feeling. I’m sure had I stopped to talk with any of them that wouldn’t have been the case, but from the outside it appeared that these weren’t actual people, but humanoids running on pure high-octane rajoguna.
Even the employees in hair nets at each end cap appeared to be nothing more than rudimentary android models built for the single task of handing out enticing treats to the zombie shoppers. They were pleasant and all, and fulfilled their task beautifully, but only half there, really.
The robotic movements and responses of the zombies put me in a sort of hypnotic state, as if I was an actual visitor from another planet quietly walking around observing the extraterrestrial life for the first time.
My experience at Costco was most interesting due to my understanding of what was happening. In Vedanta’s terms, I was in samsara. I was witnessing the impersonal and unconscious forces that drive all human beings. At the same time, I was also witnessing how my own program was responding to maya’s tricks. When we first arrived at Costco my view of samsara was as clear as day, to the point that I found myself laughing out loud at the absurdity of it all. But by the time we had spent a good 30 minutes there, I was beginning to find the objects interesting and feeling more comfortable with the exotic landscape. The scene was normalizing for me and the original shock of being transported to a different planet was wearing off.
Sometimes I find it hard to believe that we humans all come from the same mold. Why isn’t everyone clamoring for moksha begging to escape samsara? True, I am the Self and so are you. It’s a bit creepy to think that you and I are the same, that it’s all just me, and that all jivas, including this one, exist in me. It’s even stranger to think that the person I believe I am is just a robot and so are you. However, I’m glad to know I am the Self, because as jivas, we are just too...(wait for it)…alien.