Posts Tagged ‘Shopping’

By Peter Stern, Philosophy Faculty.

That’s right. Yes, you’ve read correctly, Turtle Doves–shop ’til you drop. Of course you didn’t hear it here first. True. But that’s not surprising for we–or at least some of the we–at The Flaneur’s Turtle don’t think of ourselves as cutting edge, think tank types. We know we’re not housed in one of the latest plush, rolling lawn cloistered meccas dedicated to the fine art of coming up with totally new ideas that will transform our world and our lives and our children’s lives for evermore.

Instead, we’re located at the corner of State and Congress in the deep centered vortex of a hum drum intersection surfeited with big city rush hour traffic jams where life couldn’t be more pedestrian and less creative. Indeed I dare say some at the Turtle eschew the cutting edge with almost the same focused energy ski bum addicts search out the perfect slope to best show off their dazzling pyrotechnics.

ImageThe small plaque by the front entrance of our 100 year old building tells our story. What it says is that our 12 story structure found itself on the cutting edge a century ago when it was the tallest building in the city of broad shouldered hog butchers known as Chicago. But that 12 story structure is no longer Chicago’s tallest building; Chicago’s tallest building today is called the Willis Tower and it’s a 102 stories in the air, or 90 stories taller than our old fashioned work life domicile.

So although we’re not at the forefront creating revolutionary new ideas, we Turtle Correspondents still feel we live worthwhile lives, and regularly have interesting thoughts to share with you, our readers, even when our thoughts aren’t brand new. After all, old ideas often contain nuggets of pure gold which time has tarnished and tawdry abuse rendered ridiculous. Brushed off, these old ideas can prove amazingly useful.

Now, with the above prolegomena safely behind us, let us turn our attention to the well known adage about buying which, in my view, is anchored in the very deepest layers of cultural wisdom. Yes, I really do believe the much maligned statement– shop ’til you drop–does contain good advice reasonable people would do well to follow, especially during the holiday season.

For what this well known statement is really telling us is simply this: to fulfill ourselves, we human beings should celebrate love and life. So if you’re genuinely committed to celebrating love and life, then my Dear Hard Carapaced Turtle Readers, my advice is to go out and shop, shop, shop.

Liven up your life by buying a new toaster oven, or pair of shoes, or box of chocolates, or stationary set, or magazine, or calendar, or Imagebook. Buy yourself a pint of your favorite ice cream or, better still, buy a quart. Just buy something and start the ball rolling. And with the holidays upon us, don’t simply shop for yourself, think of buying things for other people. Think about these other people–your spouse or significant other, or friend, or colleague, or sibling, or aunt and uncle and imagine a present they would like to receive; then go out and buy it. The more you buy the better you’ll feel, this I guarantee you or your money back.

Please remember shopping doesn’t require you to spend huge amounts of money. The magic phrase doesn’t demand you buy a diamond ring for your wife, or a pair of Bears season tickets for you and your offspring, or pluck down a bundle for a brand new husky, heavy weight, muscle bulging Dodge Durango. Au contraire. Small or if you prefer modest gifts fully satisfy the spirit of the slogan.

If you’re female rather than male, you needn’t feel compelled to buy a gazillion dollar fur coat, or a pair of $800, six inch Jimmy Choo satin red spiked heels. Going to Target or Walgreens to buy a couple pair of flip flops will work just fine. Shopping ’til you drop doesn’t mean you need to amass an Oprah sized net worth to enjoy the blessings buying confers. Don’t ask me how I know all this, just trust me that I do. Better still, buy those flip flops and see if they don’t make you feel bedda.

Actually one of the joys our slogan reminds us of is that you don’t have to be rich to get a kick out of shopping. You can be living from paycheck to paycheck and still enjoy the pleasure that buying affords those with tons of dough in the bank. And if you sit down and think about it, you’ll realize that most of the high toned folk who rail against the sleaziness of buying are people who are fairly well off and already have enjoyed buying lots of things they like. Indeed I can’t remember a single time I’ve run across poor people who preach heartfelt sermons about the immorality of buying “stuff,” especially at Christmas.

And don’t take this shop ’til you drop idea too literally. It doesn’t mean you must shop ’til you’re starving, worn out, and completely exhausted. Interpret it instead as a simple, well meaning, suggestion for you to avoid acting miserly, and/or resentful, particularly of those people who are out at the mall spurred by the holiday spirit. Let no one suggest for even a nanosecond that they see a resemblance between you and Mr. Dickens’ gorgon like ogre, Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge.

I think you’ll find and be surprised finding that buying is one of the human conditions most liberating experiences. Buying frees you up. When you’re buying, you don’t have to agree to the disagreeable, or obey people who think that they’re your master. Assuming your shopper’s mindset, you become as free as a bird, with the sky your only limit. Shopping is an equal opportunity endeavor.

Sure it can be abused and done to excess. But the same can be said of eating, sleeping, working, studying, exercising, and even praying. To put shopping in a clearer perspective, remember that animals don’t shop; they simply hunt and gather. Why don’t they shop? Because they don’t produce–they can reproduce, but they can’t produce a new way to wash clothes, or do yoga, or watch a movie, or listen to birds chirping. Neither can they brain storm, go to the library or laboratory or think tank to discover new ways to live their lives. So they don’t shop.

Only humans shop. To better appreciate this extraordinary fact, let’s do a final thought experiment: think what life would be like if we couldn’t shop. How awful our lives then would be! It would be as if we were suddenly behind bars, condemned to live our life in a jail cell. In prison, the terrible thing is that nothing’s really new; inmates are condemned to a world where everything’s basically the same.

Thus don’t rail against shopping and shoppers even as you review in your journal shopping’s obvious shortcomings. Also, don’t stay up nights worrying inordinately about the horrors of living in a consumer’s society. Instead, remind yourself that shopping’s one of mankind’s deepest and most attractive hobbies which has its roots in the innermost Heideggerian core of our primordial existence. As we need to eat, sleep, breathe, reproduce, and laugh, and cry, so we human beings need to shop, and shop and shop–both for ourselves, and for others. So count your blessings. Rejoice and be grateful that you can shop even when your dog, or cat, or hamster can’t.

 

By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty.

Two years ago, at about this time of year, I asked a group of my Freshmen students what traditions they looked forward to most during the holidays.  Not surprisingly, I got a good number of responses centered on the food and feast of Thanksgiving.  Some were most excited to be home with their families.  Still others were just looking forward to relaxing during their couple days off of work and school.  I expected about as much.

But, then, a couple young ladies shocked me. They stated with great excitement that they could not wait to go shopping on ‘Black Friday’.  I think I frowned, mentioning that this was not really a holiday ‘tradition’, in the purest sense of the word.  Of course, I was wrong to doubt the traditional basis of their shopping excursions. As many additional students pointed out, at 18 years old, they had been participating in ‘Black Friday’ madness for as long as they could remember. All traditions are invented at some point in time,  and for these folks, ‘Black Friday’ was timeless.

I will admit, this was upsetting to me because, I, like many others, despise ‘Black Friday’.  Now, I don’t hate the idea of shopping for presents on the day after Thanksgiving.  I actually enjoy Christmas shopping for, and with, my family.  But, I think what happens on Black Friday is a different exercise altogether, corrupting the meaning of gift buying.

Holiday shopping should be about spending time with family and friends, and thinking about how to make them happy. For example, in the couple weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, my wife and I use a few Fridays to meander our local shopping community, searching for gifts for my daughters and friends.  We take our time to think and discuss long and hard about what gifts would make those we care about most happy. There is not much in this world better than finding that perfect present that will make your youngest daughter yell for joy on Christmas morning (to be honest, it is pretty easy to make her yell for joy); perhaps the only thing that can beat that is discovering a stuffed hamster that your oldest daughter will proudly exhibit for her 1st grade, wholly self-created, hamster club. The purpose of such shopping is to enjoy the shared thoughts of our loved ones’ future happiness.  We are consuming to give, not consuming to take.

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Black Friday has another purpose altogether, and it is a symptom of a larger cultural disease in American life today. Friday’s storm of shopping is not really about finding a gift that will make others happy (of course, some shoppers have this intention). For the majority of consumers, Friday’s shopping madness is more about competition. Storming the ramparts of our local big box store  in order to win the holiday.  Who will be the first one in line at 2AM?  Who will be the first into the store?  Who will grab the best deal?  Who will fight hardest for the latest toy/electronic gadget that their child/husband/wife can’t live without?  The winner walks away with the cheapest merchandise, at whatever the human cost.  In order to win, contemplation towards what would be a wonderous gift is unlikely; action is the most important response. It seems ‘Black Friday’ enjoyment comes not from the thoughts of Christmas morning joy, but from an individual, selfish desire to defeat other consumers. Not surprisingly, the competition can get nasty.  We see it each year when mobs of consumers break down doors, stampede workers, and sometimes attack others that stand in the way of store-crowd-black-friday-blur-615cs112212their material victory.

This is why it should come as no surprise that Black Friday is now being moved back 24 hours, into what retailers and media have dubbed ‘Brown Thursday’ (Thanksgiving, of course).  Since consumers will line up at 4AM, 2AM, or 1AM to win the shopping world series, it only so obvious that they will take any advantage they can get. If that advantage is leaving our homes and families on Thanksgiving, then so be it. We want to win, whatever the cost to our families, or to the families of those who must serve us at our retail palaces.

There is no shortage of tragic irony that our individualistic desires of consumption and victory are encroaching onto one our diminishing  sacred days of community.  If ‘Black Friday’ is all about desire and struggle, then the ORIGINAL Brown Thursday holiday was created to symbolically overcome wrenching strife.  In 1863, during the height of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving as a national holiday, obviously intending the day’s spiritual message of reconciliation and togetherness as a counter to the death and Henry_David_Thoreaudestruction scarring the nation. With this in mind, the idea of ‘Brown Thursday’ reeks of sacrilege.

And so, as we sit down this Thursday to enjoy family and friends, and our mind wanders to the flat screen TV on sale for only two hours at Wal-Mart,  it may be good to pause and reflect on Henry David Thoreau’s words:

I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual. It is surprising how contented one can be with nothing definite – only a sense of existence. My breath is sweet to me. O how I laugh when I think of my vague indefinite riches. No run on my bank can drain it, for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment.