“Nine pounds ninety nine please,” John tried to smile and not breathe in the direction of the customer in case they smelled the booze he was sure was still seeping out through his tongue. Another busy day in the shop, the last thing he needed.
He took a ten pound note from the customer, pressed the right buttons on the till, swapped the note for a penny from the tray and handed it back to the customer. All on automatic pilot. Most of his mental energy was going into fighting the urge to vomit.
“Thank you, hope you enjoy your book, please come again.” He smiled weakly as he handed a bagged up novel over and watched the woman walk away. He looked at the queue of shoppers lined up waiting to be served.
He quite enjoyed working in a book shop on quiet days. The days when he could do more reading than button-pushing and bar-code scanning and fake-smiling and bagging-up and wishing people a nice day. This was not looking like one of those days.
He rubbed his forehead. Stupid booze. Smiled at the next faceless customer, scanned more bar-codes, bagged more books, took more money, and repeated the process. Over and over. The queue of customers neither shrinking nor growing, expanding at around the rate he could serve people. The bookshop owner would likely be happy that today was a busy day even if John wasn’t. Assuming a massive faceless multinational corporation could be happy at least.
Could it? Could a legally incorporated financial organization have emotions? Could it somehow steal the consciousness of it’s shareholders or employees to feel?
Corporations did things. They bought and they sold and they merged and performed hostile takeovers. They published advertising campaigns and convinced customers and fought for mind-share. They even paid taxes. Sometimes. They seemed to avoid them at least as much.
They did all this by convincing people, their staff, to do those things for it. Could a corporation feel? Could an abstract idea like a company actually convince their staff to experience an emotion for it?
John was reminded of the team-building exercises that they’d sent him on last year. At the time it’d struck him as pointless ineffective brainwashing. Rah-rah cheer-leading crap that was trying to get him to identify with his co-workers and to get the whole bunch of them to invest their identity in the corporate manifesto.
But the others had really seemed to get something out of it. To enjoy it. To genuinely abandon themselves in the games, the template-thinking. They seemed to like giving their mental energy over to someone else, to the group, to the legal fiction of the corporate whole.
He looked at the corporate motto emblazoned on the promotional posters all over the shop, at the iconography in the logo, the corporate mascot. Fucking hell, they even had a corporate song at one place he’d worked.
Was that all sidual magic? Were the corporations as alive as that scary penguin in his dream?
Damn that stupid booklet.
He scanned in another book, looked up at the customer to ask for the cash and there stood the penguin!
He physically stepped back, shocked, did a double take and then sighed.
A nun. It was just a nun. They never got nuns in the shop. Did they? He looked again at the book he’d scanned on auto-pilot. A book claiming to prove the existence of god. Now he thought of it, they did sell quite a lot of stuff from the religious section. Probably they did serve quite a few nuns. He didn’t remember seeing one in her habit before.
“Seven ninety five please,” he forced his smile again. Wondered what proportion of his smiles were his own, and what proportion of them were the corporation’s? He probably smiled more for the corporation than he did for himself.
After giving the nun her change he watched her turn and walk out of the shop. She was quite pretty, even in the penguin suit. Shame she was married to Jesus.
Nuns, man. Crazy.
John checked his watch, still three hours of this to get through. He restarted his auto-pilot and got on with serving the next customer.
The cover of the book he’d sold to the nun swam around hazily in his hungover unconscious mind for a while. Typical image of god as a bearded old man surrounded in wispy clouds, as though the guy himself was made from the clouds.
Talk about mere symbols having an influence on the world. Seems like not a month goes by without someone bombing or killing or fighting in the name of the great heavenly monster. Every one of the perpetrators thinking god had told them to do it.
John hadn’t been brought up to be religious. His parents just basically ignored religion. Most of his friends did the same. A few of them would claim to believe in “something” but none of them in a white bearded cloud-being watching from the sky. He didn’t usually think about god at all, but if pressed would admit to not believing in such a creature. Yet presumably something was talking to the bombers and the fighters and, come to that, the folks who gave to charity in god’s name, those who cared for the sick, tended the injured, preached in church or just prayed for their football team to win.
John’s auto-pilot book-selling stumbled for a second as these subconscious thoughts bubbled up into actual cognizance. His mind asking him how he felt about that realization. Wondering what his model of himself would do with the knowledge?
Is god borrowing consciousness from human beings in the same way that the penguin had? Was god alive and well, hijacking the brains of a third of the people on the entire globe to do his thinking for him? Did that make god real?
Certainly it gave the symbol power. Ask anyone who died in the Crusades, who died in the twin-tower attacks, who’d been stoned to death for their adultery, for bringing shame to a father whose brain calculated god’s reaction to their progeny’s sin and demanded they act accordingly.
When people ask themselves, “What would Jesus do?” are they actually resurrecting Jesus in their mind? Making him conscious, alive?
He thought about the penguin from his dream last night. Wondered what it’d say if he asked it that question.
“Thanks for making me conscious for a while.“