I had a much-needed day off recently and decided to visit a few places in London - like the London Library (wonderful) and Westminster Abbey (claustrophobic in its conservativism).
I ended up at the Westfield shopping centre at Shepherd's Bush to meet a friend for dinner before going to a gig, and I had to write a blog entry for it because I've never seen anything like it. It's a cathederal to consumerism - a building on such a massive scale that it seems to go on forvever.
All the shops and ads surrounding them are of course glossy, but the place (like most shopping centres) feels fake; a place that sucks meaning out of one's life rather than adds it.
All of the pictures in the shops and adverts are of people doing real things - from walking in the country to laughing with friends - yet almost none of the products they are advertising are actually essential for undertaking these activities. It is as if the retailers know very well that buying their wares won't make anyone happy, so they have to sell them by associating them with the simple, authentic activities that actually do give us fulfilment - like walking in nature or having fun with friends - in order to sell them to you. Yet their wares won't contribute at all to your enjoyment of these activities - so in the end they are simply void, vacuous, worthless. It's worth remembering this when you're feeling yourself being sucked in by an advert!
Overall, the experience leaves one with a sense of emptiness and a desire to get back to the real things in life that actually do matter!