The provocation of something new

Yesterday we went to Best Buy the consumer electronics store for modern gizmos, gadgets, toys and necessities – televisions and home theatres, computers, smart phones, tablets, portable sound systems, cameras and camcorders, headphones, wearable technology, GPS, drones, collectibles, etc.

On August 22, 1966, Richard M. Schulze and a business partner opened Sound of Music, an electronics store specializing in high fidelitystereos in St. Paul, Minnesota. Schulze financed the opening of his first store with his personal savings and a second mortgage he took out on his family’s home. In 1983, with seven stores and $10 million in annual sales, Sound of Music was renamed Best Buy Company, Inc. In 1992, the company achieved $1 billion in annual revenues. In September of 1991 Best Buy opened the first Canadian Best Buy-branded store in Mississauga, Ontario. In their attempt to combat child pornography, the FBI hired several Best Buy employees from the Geek Squad division to covertly work for them flagging potential targets. In one incident, a customer brought in his computer for troubleshooting. As it turns out, this customer’s computer was found to contain images of child pornography and was flagged and promptly reported to the FBI. The customer was charged with possession of child pornography. A judge had no choice but to throw “out almost all the evidence” against the defendant due to “false and misleading statements” made by “an FBI agent” while trying to secure a search warrant for the customer’s house.

As the coincidence that is life would have it, upon our return home I encountered our neighbour who enthusiastically related to me when I asked what was new that she had just made five or six purchases, two of which she heartily shared with me. I in turn shared with her my thriving appreciation of the unparalleled satisfaction which comes with a happy new acquisition.

The retail world is not always guaranteed to provide such unqualified delight. What it is that promotes this not uncommon gusto is something which merits a degree of examination for the frank reason that like some narcotic or alcoholic evaporations the affect can be ephemeral at best. Whether the acquisition is an automobile, a piece of jewellery, a bespoke suit of clothes, a house or anything else it isn’t long before hearing the echo of Peggy Lee’s sonorous and toxically inquisitive voice singing, “Is that all there is?

Is that all there is, is that all there is
If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing
Let’s break out the booze and have a ball
If that’s all there is

I have lately chewed over portions of this unsettling debate. I proudly proclaim at the outset that after much earnest reflection there are in fact many things which have not lost their appeal for me. Perhaps even more emphatically I have by and large succeeded (and I use the word guardedly) to narrow the doorway of my material inquiry. I’m not looking for anything else. True this is in part an admission of the inutility of expenditure at my age when – if I were honest – the statistics are not in my favour. Again – more to the point – I have resigned myself so to speak to satisfaction with the current state of affairs on almost every level in addition to that of material amassing.

Why you might ask is this then judicious reasoning – I mean, “Are you saving it for the funeral!” you might equally pose? Before I respond to that succinct rhetoric I must first divert to what my education and hereditary or congenital disposition have prompted me to resolve; namely, what really matters at all? I suppose this could be dismissed as a philosophic restatement of the colloquial question, “Is that all there is?” and I admit it is. But in my defence it engenders less of a critical or mocking nature and more of an expression of purely intellectual curiosity. It also provokes the same substantive wrangling raised by René Descartes when that disturbed individual determined, “Cogito ergo sum!” His summary conclusion captured the most elemental of all questions; namely, do I even exist? I haven’t any impending inquisitiveness about my own existence but I do have a lingering though not exactly booming question about what really matters in the end?

I have thankfully been assisted in this maddening exploration by my in-house editor and constant companion who lately directed me to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Strangely what struck me upon a fleeting review of this illustrative diagram was that I had already reached the pinnacle by becoming the most that I can be (the so-called “Self Actualization”). By contrast I wasn’t wholly clear about the basic or “Physiological” needs. I seemed to have got things backwards – even if arrogantly. Nonetheless the one ambition was just as important to me as the other. If nothing else this may explain my predilection for detail about the starting points in life; and also the conjunction of the noisiness about what matters in the end? For to me the overwhelming and compelling conclusion was that in the end one need only be concerned with what really matters. I know this sounds hopelessly axiomatic or contrived, in either case singularly uninteresting. But the consternation captures the logical need to return to basics when feeling overcome by commotion.

The attraction to elemental and existing things certainly expedites a resolution though it does not dissolve my interest in something new. It does however insinuate a character of importance to what is new. In the past two decades – during the height I the technological revolution – I have continually been drawn to technical advantage as the sole resource of something new. Comically perhaps this present discussion promoted me to revisit the history of my social development, much of which was my education and my association with social conventions and groups (boarding school, undergraduate liberal arts, law school, the Anglican Church and Freemasonry).

The inescapable – and less than flattering – truth about education, religion and society is that by definition each seeks to harden or adjust people to existing or preconceived notions – at least putatively contrary to novelty or invention. This may amount to a harsh summary of elemental human dynamics but I prefer to see it as a reminder that searching out new resources may afford a discovery which has authenticity beyond the heavenly mould of blue cheese. Nor to be clear does the conclusion change if we’re talking about Roquefort. Just because something has the dignity of age does not mean the allure of something new is beyond comprehension. The attraction I have for something new is now directed to what I consider to be the modern fundamental – technology. Technology is the indisputable contemporary basic in the hierarchy of needs – the provocation of something new. Rolex step aside to Apple Watch!

By the mid-1930s Rogers was hugely popular in the United States, its leading political wit and the highest paid of Hollywood film stars. He died in 1935 with aviator Wiley Post when their small airplane crashed in northern Alaska.

His aphorisms, couched in humorous terms, were widely quoted: “I am not a member of an organized political party. I am a Democrat.”