Saturday, December 10, 2011

Where You Shop the Wide World Knows

When I was little, we chanted a rhyme picked up from radio and TV's Amateur Hour, which we accompanied with twirling like Dervishes and falling limp to the ground:
Round and round and round she goes.
Where she stops, nobody knows.
That has nothing to do with my subject today, which is actually Christmas shopping.  I want to say, Where you shop, somebody knows, and to comment further that changing habits is hard.

I have been a major user of Amazon these last couple of years, especially since I got my Kindle and my transplant, and was often too ill to go to the library, but could buy e-books, and did.  Then recently I saw a headline in The Economist - Amazon:  The Walmart of the Web. You don't have to read it to get the idea, do you?

It struck a chord in me, for I am a person who decided a long time ago never to step foot in a Walmart. I was attuned to how the appearance of one of these big-box stores means the death of a small-town pharmacy, hardware, and grocery store.  I resonate to the idea of neighborhoods, small towns, mom-and-pop businesses.  If you think about it, that's the American Dream, not that anyone can become a dot-com millionaire overnight, but that anyone can set out to make a living as an entrepreneur. 

Stepping foot in a Walmart has not been hard to avoid.  But Amazon?  That's another story.  They lure you with their service, the guarantee, one-click purchasing, consistent shipping.  With some trepidation I went looking today for someone else to sell me the book I wanted to get for Tom for Christmas (which is, of course, a book I am dying to read myself).  Ebay led me to Powell's Books.  And there I actually got a better deal, free shipping.  Done.

I am in a sensitive, open place today, having watched last night (Netflix streaming) a beautiful documentary-concert on Leonard Cohen titled I'm Your Man.  Woke up humming Hallelujah.  So I noticed the feeling in my stomach as I left the security of Amazon for a new seller.  Not really rational, Powell's is long-established, nothing to fear.  Just change.  A different path.

Now there you have the fruit of years of Zen, that little sensitivity to a feeling in your stomach, to what's happening inside you, as well as outside.  If you don't have that sensitivity, the small sensation translates to anxiety, which can lead to an instant thought-trail that justifies buying on Amazon, and Walmart, because, after all . . .

So that's a little commercial, not for Powell's particularly, but for keeping up practice, and also for shopping with an eye to karma.  And by the way, Cohen long ago became a student of Zen and a monk.  I don't know whether he wrote "Hallelujah" before that time - I don't think so.  I hope you enjoy it.  A nice break from "The Hallelujah Chorus" this time of year.


  1. I don't think Apple is a paragon of virtue either.
    Their $499.00 ipad reportedly costs about $20 to produce. I think there's a sweat shop there somewhere. I think Amazon's most annoying feature is that they use your shopping history to place individually targeted ads on every other site you visit. I'm currently followed by ads pitching acid free large format printer paper and archival inks, oh and Chinese sea grass twine (don't ask) all related to purchases I've already made.

  2. Just read a good buddhist "lite" book.....great to give new people an understanding without being dry. With exercises at the end of each chapter.
    You don't have to post this.

  3. oh yes, beware the BIG GUY who monopolizes the business. This really resonates with me, Jeanne, because I too have mourned the coming of the Superstore in my town.