Thursday, May 2, 2013

Lunchboxes, absurdity and habit.

We are all creatures with habits.  Habits are important because we perform habitual tasks without needing to reason or to overly exert our will power.

But I would describe myself as 'creature of habit' because I have an above average number of unusual habits. Like trying to sit on the same bus seat (I like the third window seat down on the right hand side),  using the same toilet cubicle,  drinking from the same cup. I even consistently arrange the same mundane objects a certain way.  For example my large lunch box is always neatly shoved into the corner of my work cubicle with the smaller breakfast box resting on top and my "three o clock break" box (for the lack of a more elegant term) is perched at the very top.  My water bottle is tucked in just behind the computer monitor right beside my coffee cup.  This is how my desk looks every day.

Originally the little pyramid of plastic tupperware began as the practical means of organizing my diet. Then it represented my organizational ability and finally it became a symbol of identity or self-actualization to the point I felt vaguely irritated if I had a team lunch and I didn't pack my lunch box.

Let me try to explain.

My work is pure drudgery and every day I still struggle to accept the meaningless of the business I trade my labor to.  It took me around five years to consistently organize myself enough to plan and make my healthy lunches instead of buying expensive rolls and to take regular exercise instead of playing computer games.  That is to say, it took five years of struggle before this become a habit and therefore I find it strangely rewarding when I plan and pack that little hierarchy of tupperware and zip up my gym bag.  The little lunch boxes then are symbols of organization, of dividing my day into meaningful and purposeful units.  (A big achiever I am not so I will take the little victories thank you very much.)

So I have coined the term "symbolic habits" to describe my liking for describing the day according to my eating habits and of arranging my lunching boxes just so. Yes, it's completely irrational and absurd. But this absurdity describes the process exactly :-

In absurdist philosophy, the Absurd arises out of the fundamental disharmony between the individual's search for meaning and the meaninglessness of the universe. As beings looking for meaning in a meaningless world, humans have three ways of resolving the dilemma. [link]

The three ways of resolving the dilemma are: suicide, acceptance of the transcendent realm or acceptance of the absurd.  I throw myself upon the latter horn: I, with a cynical little smile,  accept  the absurdity of my little symbolic tubberware habit as the most meaningful part of my day in a meaninglessness work place.
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