A week hasn’t even passed, and I already peeked at Amazon. How am I faring without it?
This morning I started reading Robert Caro’s Working, his essays on a life in journalism in which his sole aim was to study power: what it is, how people get it, and how it affects us all. He wrote with such a desire to understand—in order to explain it to his readers—that he did things like move to Texas where Lyndon B. Johnson grew up in order to understand how that man was formed. He stayed three years and in the process learned about things like pioneer women, telling some of their stories that would have been lost had he not told them.
Caro is my kind of man.
So, I went to Thrift Books to see what books of his they had. I looked up Bob Greene, too, the award-winning investigative reporter at Newsday who was his mentor. The prices seemed a little…high. Then they didn’t have an audio book in which Caro speaks on power. They were also sold out of many copies of Caro.
The site seemed a little grim. Not splashy and overstimulating, telling me what other books I might want, and what other readers are reading, and…
So I went over to Amazon to look up Caro and Bob Greene and there were ALL THEIR BOOKS, gloriously listed and available for order in about three seconds on my Amazon credit card (DANGER).
I could break my vow, I heard a voice say. Who would know?
I would, I sighed. And I want to be a person who honors her commitments. Who means what she says, and says what she means. I want to be a person of integrity.
So I closed out of all windows and shut my tablet and dropped it on the quilts. Lest you think I am some kind of Buddha here, let me share what happened next.
I began to think: I’ll have to wait. I’ll have to think about it a bit more, to see if I really want those books. Maybe preview them at the library or a bookstore. And maybe wait until I have the time to read the 1100-page The Power Broker, which I don’t think is now because I promised Tamar I’d read War and Peace with her this winter. Hey, my neighbor Barbara has the Caro book and said I could borrow it…and so on.
This wasn’t really comfortable. It’s not what I’m used to. Delay. Imagination. Looking forward. On Amazon, I would press ORDER without a thought. I would GET THAT BOOK. I take action—click!– to (re)solve a feeling I don’t want to have. Want. Desire. Discomfort. Pain (yes, small compared to most pains).
In other words, I would kill my love of Caro in that moment. In securing him for all time to be MINE ON MY BOOKSHELVES UNTIL I DIE, the part of me that feels would end and the whole subject would be done with.
In case you haven’t noticed, everything I am describing is addiction. Taking an action in order not to feel.
The reason I quit Amazon, I think, in addition to its troubling business practices, is selfish. Amazon feeds into my own impulsivity, and creates more of it. Amazon makes me click-happy. Things arrive in my mailbox, and as soon as they do, I want more. I crave when I use Amazon. My relationship to buying, to money, to books, to the whole material world becomes hateful. Amazon is a way to manage my feelings, not truly get what I want and need.
I did not know this. Or, rather, I did, in the way that we know what we don’t want to know because it would require us to act on our own behalf. Which, of course, is an act of love.