If you're sick of the rat race, get more art into your life -- ASAP. Art offsets the materialism that threatens to swamp us all. It helps preserve a place in your heart, and in your life, where better things can grow.
FIRST, ARE YOU REALLY A 'CONSUMER'?
But before we get to art (and specifically, poetry), let's pause for what George Carlin famously called "stuff." Without stuff, there's no rat race. And for stuff to hold sway, you need receptacles, like the captive French geese that get stuffed with food before they're killed for foie gras.
The "geese" in this case, of course, are us -- "consumers." We're force-fed stuff, and the "foie gras" that we produce is profits. If you look closer, much of the foie gras comes from credit card debt, which fences us in like a French goose. But we'll cook that fowl some other time.
LANGUAGE IS POWER, SO GET SOME
The job of the media is to sell you stuff. (Advertisers write the checks.) This is why you're constantly being told that you're a "consumer" or a "shopper." If your core identity can be refashioned -- "I'm a member of the buying club!" -- you're much easier to manipulate, whether you or your family or the planet can afford it or not.
This is where writers come in -- especially poets. If those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it, those who ignore language are doomed to be geese. If you leave language to the propagandists, you've left your freedom, too.
If you want to rediscover an awareness of language, read poetry. (Think of it as the opposite of email.) You don't need to plow through "Paradise Lost". Just dipping into a collection from time to time can do the trick. There's plenty to choose from, too.
Paradoxically, even as the web is bringing a higher tide of stuff into our lives, it's bearing more written art, as well.
Where to find good poets? For starters, you can check out the anthologies, such as the various Norton series that college students use. (Byron, Rilke, Yeats, Apollinaire -- the buffet is endless.) Your local library probably has them, and you can find them on Amazon with the keywords "Norton anthology."
Younger poets, too, are blazing trails. One in particular to note is Egyptian poet, aphorist and essayist Yahia Lababidi. Lababidi has an extraordinary sensitivity to language - its music, rhythms and revelations. For more, see http://amzn.to/1759QWA.
HAVE SOME POETRY TO SHARE?
If you write poetry or are considering the form, there are plenty of sites to choose from. A good place to start is Poets and Writers, at http://www.pw.org/.
You can also have a look at Poets.org. For more sites and publications, see this list at tweetspeakpoetry.com: http://bit.ly/QAMcbh.
Christine Durst and Michael Haaren's column, "Rat Race Rebellion," can be found at creators.com.