Saturday, February 7, 2015

Grocery store philosophy

The piquant mix of description and social commentary in highlighted italics after this paragraph made me smile. It's from an entry on the Z blog that was linked by Gerard at American Digest:

"Whole Foods is another example of why libertarian economics is utter nonsense. If humans were transactional, value seeking machines, they would not be squandering money on sustainably grown fair trade instant coffee, processed by one-legged transgendered midgets."

As far as I can tell, the "Z man" who wrote that has no real animus against Whole Foods. He simply holds that upscale grocery chain up as a symptom of the conformity in college towns like Cambridge, Massachusetts, where diversity is honored more in the breach than in the observance. Apple's iPhone also draws his eye, because it's another example of something "conformational" and "affirming." Those are interesting adjectives. Mr. Z does not treat them as outriders for an argument about greater and lesser goods, but I suspect he could. The discussion is much bigger than "farm raised" vs. "wild caught."

"Conformational" and "affirming" reminded me that some of the men at my parish have been talking about how to develop better spiritual habits. We're using the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius Loyola as a guide for that effort. One of the recommended practices in those venerable Exercises is a daily examination of conscience. It turns out that the examen is not just a mental accounting of the day's mistakes. Done right, the examen should not be discouraging; it looks back at blessings received, and our response to them. This approach makes sense because there are questions of "right order" buried in our daily lives. Shopping at Whole Foods, for example, is morally neutral unless or until it becomes part of our self-image. If that happens, we need a reality check, and that might be part of what Mr. Z was alluding to. Affirmation from things never works out, because (as saints and Scriptures remind us), it's an inversion of the moral order that puts people first.

I know that sounds preachy, but I don't mean it that way. I need the reminder myself. I'd say I was trying to philosophize my way out of a paper bag, if that metaphor hadn't been hobbled in many places by the rise of reusable canvas totes.

No comments:

Post a Comment