I was checking out at Publix this past weekend and eyeballed the romaine hearts I picked out one last time before they got scanned.
“Are they OK?” asked a cheerful and freckled cashier.
“Oh yeah,” I said, “just double-checking because most of them were questionable.”
“Are you sure? Don’t get it if you’re not sure!” She giggled, reddened slightly and added, “I’m not a very good salesperson.”
“Me neither!” I responded. It’s true! I’m not.
“We should have more sales people like that!” said a tall man in line behind me with a strong African accent and wise eyes. “But then again,” he added, “with social media these days, bad business will come back to bite you!”
And so began a 24-hour period in which my own ideas about proprietism confronted me in strange ways.
The next time it happened was in Barnes and Noble when I plucked the latest issue of Adbusters off the magazine rack. Adbusters is a deliciously subverssive and chic publication, and of course I was delighted to open it up to a quote from Jesse Donaldson about Generation Z:
“They use tech and innovation, use the system to change the system. They want endless customization and mobile work environments. They don’t want a brand. THEY ARE THE BRAND – their experiences, their clothes, their check-ins and selfies and online shopping and instant communication.”
(I talk about this quite a bit, and notably in these posts:
Social Media and the New Individualism: Your Brand,
Proprietism and Self-Branding Revisited, and
Your Brand and Your Network.)
Perhaps my mind opened up and I subconsciously went about my weekend looking for proprietism. Sometimes this can happen to me when I’m pondering a post; usually I develop a theme in my head and hone my thoughts before typing it out. Maybe because I had been unusually busy at work and buying a home, I lacked the focus to develop a solid thesis and instead got stuck in inspiration mode.
Finally, and most unexpectedly, I picked up a book I am working through called The Shack by WM Paul Young. In a surreal scene, the main character Mack is having a conversation with the holy trinity. Papa is the father, Sarayu is the holy church, and Jesus is the son. The three are explaining to Mack that none of them are in charge of the other two. Sarayu states that power and hierarchies are a human problem:
“‘Humans are so lost and damaged that to you it’s almost incomprehensible that people could work or live together without someone being in charge.’
‘But every human institution that I can think of, from political to business, even down to marriage, is governed by this kind of thinking; it is the web of our social fabric,’ Mack asserted.
‘Such a waste!’ said Papa, picking up the empty dish and heading for the kitchen.
‘It’s one reason why experiencing true relationship is so difficult for you,’ Jesus added. ‘Once you have a hierarchy you need rules to protect and administer it, and then you need law and the enforcement of the rules, and you end up with some kind of chain of command or a system of order that destroys relationship rather than promotes it. You rarely see or experience relationship apart from power. Hierarchy imposes laws and rules and you end up missing the wonder of relationship that we intended for you.'”
(This theme is all over this blog! Here are some where I talk about the dark side of institutions and hierarchies:
The Paleo System
The Twilight of Institutionalism
Self Branding Revisted II
Holacracy and Proprietism
A Market of Sole-Proprietorships
A Worldview Emerges
The Extremist Group Fallacy)
More than anything, I’m content to know that Mr. Emerson would have been proud of me.
“A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thought: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty…
(from Self Reliance)