454 page views. That’s what I got on my Costco piece (American Initiation) and another 25 comments on Facebook. Seems I struck some cultural nerve that was much more interesting to people than my usual topics of music, education and culture. And I get it. Commerce hits us where we live. The Irish say, “After a full belly, it’s all poetry” and shopping is the way we fill the belly.
Now usually I find that in my blogs and on Facebook and in my books and talks at workshops, I’m mostly preaching to a choir that says “Amen! Tell it, brother!” Of course, that feels good. But one can get spoiled. In the Costco comments, people I knew and respected where not agreeing with me (well, some were) and calling me to the carpet. And that’s a good thing, made me think deeper about Costco and it’s difference from Walmart—good wages and worker’s benefits, more of a conscience, offering an important service to large families, limited incomes, large events, etc.
But still I had questions. Was it cheap only because of quantities or were some non-Costco workers far away footing the bill for us? And what about location? The moving of commerce from Mom and Pop in the center of town to the mall on the edge has effectively destroyed small town American culture and required more oil consumption to drive to the store instead of walk downtown. And what of aesthetics? How does it feel to shop there?
So while walking to Mills Lake in Rocky Mountain Park I was laying out my rebuttal like I do, partly to clarify my own thinking, partly to further the dialogue, partly to defend myself. While I was lining it all up, I stopped for a moment and noted the waterfall in front of me. And the distant mountains beyond. And the shifting clouds above. I began to note the scent of the pines and the scurrying of the chipmunks and the roaring river. I walked over a patch of snow, arrived at the peaceful lake, swatted some mosquitos (my first of the summer) and took a deep inhale.
And suddenly, I didn’t feel like writing about Costco. I didn’t care about Costco at all. My belly was full (with goods from Costco!) and I was ready for poetry. It usually takes me three days at a Zen retreat or camping to let the mind’s chatter leak out and be more fully present for what’s in front of me. And when what is in front of me is as magnificent as the Rocky Mountains, well, that's something worth paying attention to.
So the Costco discussion can wait. Me, I’m going out hiking.