21 July 2005

The Old Man and the Tree

I am standing in a park a few miles from Tofino, British Columbia, on Vancouver Island's Pacific coast. Katie and I went to this stunningly beautiful part of the world to celebrate my 60th birthday, and I can't deny that I was feeling the weight of six decades. But the great tree I'm leaning against reminds me that there are creatures on the earth far older than I am or ever will be.

11 July 2005

What Do You Mean?

In this marketing-saturated era, we're bombarded with expressions that actually mean the opposite of what they say. Nowhere is this hypocrisy more prevalent than in the responses we get from "Customer Service" departments, sometimes laughably called "Customer Care." For example, the recorded telephone message insisting that "Your call is important to us" clearly means "We don't care what you think, so why don't you stop bothering us." (If our call really was important to them, they wouldn't park us on interminable hold, hoping we'll get discouraged and hang up.) My theory is that the downgrading of customers began when the financial media started referring to them as "consumers." This institutional term--as in Consumer Price Index--replaced the more personal word "customer," with its suggestion of a living, breathing person who goes to the store to buy something and often knows the store owner. Now, our value has been reduced to that of spending units, whose purchases will be tallied electronically and published (or posted) in charts, tables, and graphs to help marketers sell us more crap we don't need.

05 July 2005

Aid and Comfort

A while back, a story made the news about three lions coming to the rescue of a 12-year-old Ethiopian girl, who had been kidnapped by a group of men who wanted to force her into marriage. The lions chased off her abductors and guarded the girl for half a day, until police and her family arrived to take her home. At that point, the lions ended their protective custody and departed. I see no reason not to believe this story. Animals, unlike humans, are not distracted by incessant mental chatter. The lions sensed a helpless creature in trouble and came to her rescue. The next time you're tempted to think of humans as superior to "lesser" animals, ask yourself how you would have responded in this situation.