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This weekend I splurged and spent a chunk of change at a spa.

And not any old spa. The Spa Utopia. Pan Pacific location. Yes, it’s every bit as wonderful as it sounds.

It raised the questions it usually does: I walked by beggars, including women who sleep on stairs and cardboard, enroute to the spa. How can I justify this splurge in face of the people whose primary needs are not being met?

Like many of you, I have grappled frequently with this question. Here are a few thoughts I have, and I hope to god I’m not defending the indefensible.

  1. No one is served by everyone being destitute. Rather, we need to find ways where we all enjoy a reasonable standard of living. The fact that I have a reasonable standard of living is a good thing.
  2. Spa experiences are a good thing. A gorgeous luxury. When it is within my means, and when I go to a spa, the appropriate response is not guilt, but rather ensuring I celebrate and enjoy the experience fully.
  3. Notwithstanding, I remain accountable (to whom? For me, the creator of all people. But also, to my society. And also, to the marginalized themselves. Food for thought: a priest in an inner city church in the states made the comment: No one gets to heaven without letters of recommendation from the poor) — I remain accountable for the people I encounter locally, and the people across the globe, who are going to bed hungry, and outside.
  4. I cannot solve the planet’s poverty with my salary. But I can give with increasing generosity. My rule of thumb is that I both give monthly to a charity and also, for every splurge, I give an equal amount to the charity, in addition to the regular amount.
  5. I can request political change and policies that do more than I can do singlehandedly to eradicate poverty locally and globally.

Readers:  how do you balance luxury spending in the midst of a planet of hungry people?

Like many of us, I’m still sorting through what role mainstream media plays in this new web 2.0 world.

I don’t watch tv anymore, really. YouTube and viddler have my attention now.

I haven’t cancelled my subscription to National Post (and here you thought I was entirely lefty. surprise!) but I rarely read it – I prefer grabbing headlines off twitter and reading the selected articles.

But here’s a purpose it does serve for me. I sometimes look to mainstream media to be the expert, sort through it all, and provide the most worthy content. CBC still does that (although that is changing).

So here’s the story.

Have you ever had a piece of music just reach out and grab you? This past weekend, Howard Dyck on cbc aired stunning music by a rather obscure composer named Zelenka: I had to have it.

Alas! a google search yielded little, itunes came up empty and I lost all hope when cbc pointed out that the recording “was not available commercially”.

WAILING & GNASHING OF TEETH! (yes, over a piece of classical music)

Enter web 2.0.

Twitter

I cried out my pain on twitter, and my cry was answered by a woman in Nebraska (named Barb, to be specific) who actually knew of Zelenka! Barb pointed me to a recording of the piece on youtube (see below). Now I strongly suspect the recording is under copywrite and should not be posted on youtube! But I listened anyways, and listened again and again until my addiction was complete.

Facebook

I also cried out my fate – having fallen in love only to discover the music was UnAvailable (anyone who can relate?) – on facebook. Enter my buddy Clive who responded with a link to Amazon with several second hand recordings.

GREAT REJOICING!

e-mail

And for the icing on the cake, David (see link above re: cbc changing) e-mailed me with a link to a place I could order the score.

My point is simply this. Mainstream media may yet serve us all well, if it can figure out how to draw our attention to the quality stuff (as opposed to the quantity of crap, so ably poked at by Morning Brew). And if it weren’t for the exposure it received (illicitly?) on YouTube, I may well have forgotten about it. As it turned out, I am going to purchase the recording, for sure, and likely the score. Perhaps the sky isn’t falling. Perhaps this brave new world of new business models may result in wins for everyone.

Readers: have you ever started out with errrrr, grey-area consumption of something that resulted in a purchase?

fyi – here is the piece that caught my attention. It’s just over 2 minutes, it grabs you, and doesn’t let you go til it’s done.

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Hal Wilson was one of those teachers they base movies on. He let us stray from the topic at hand into the Stuff of Life that Matters, often.

He was the first person I knew who used the word Integrity and talked about it. A lot. He said his integrity was the single most important thing in his life. Without it, he felt he lost a lot of what it meant to be a man.

As an adult, I reflect back and know better how brave it was for him to say such things. It’s easier not to talk about it, because most of us don’t live into values like integrity very well.  Plus, living into it is often costly, and we’d rather not do it, truth be told. So we’d prefer not to admit to anyone, maybe not even ourselves, that it’s something we aim for.

And yet, do any you readers of this post regret a single instance in which you chose to act with integrity, even if it cost you?

The times you chose the hard path because it was the right thing to do, and you knew it?

The times you didn’t go with the crowd?

The times you stood up for a deeply held principle?

Odds are, even if you paid a price, you have a sense of dignity and a good energy in that memory.

Contrast that with the times we messed up – when we didn’t play quite fair, when we took credit at someone else’s expense, when we won the battle but in our heart of hearts know we compromised the war, even as we ourself, momentarily, looked good. Isn’t there a part of us that, even if we don’t fully regret it, acknowledges that we won, but at our own expense?

I don’t know that babies have integrity. But the more we can live into it, the more we sleep like babies. I’m not sayin’ how well I sleep yet… but I hope it gets deeper with age.

Photo credit: Qole

So I’m nicely at the stage of life where I can financially defend some global travel … only to discover that I’ve developed a sensitivity towards, well, flying.

All that jet fuel.

And what kind of footprint will I leave?

Rats!  Why is life so complicated?

Readers:  have any of you done any eco travel?  Do you think it’s greenwash, or do you think it’s genuine?  Any recommendations?

And I quote:

How things have changed. The city [vancouver] in the rain forest is the very definition of luxury, the sort of casual elegance and graceful quality of life Vancouverites have come to take for granted.

Now the rest of the world is taking note.

Vancouver’s skyline is bristling with cranes as more and more high-end hotels and condo complexes are built. Famous faces mingle with the crowds shopping at international luxury retailers. New restaurants open almost every week.

(Nat’l Post, March 29 2008, FW5)

In the immortal words of Shania Twain: That don’t impress me much. And I hope to god that’s not becoming Vancouver’s brand positioning.

Don’t get me wrong. I love genuine quality as much as the next guy. My mac. My piano. My gorgeous daschunds.

So quality, yes.

Luxury? Meh. Boring.

For one thing, it smells bad. Like exclusivity smells bad to me. What the frack does anyone gain by using luxury as a demarcation from the next person?

For another thing, it’s dumb. Most of the us – I hope? or am I kidding myself? – kinda get the fact that we’ve overconsumed, overspent, and screwed the planet and exploited about a billion people in the process. Conspicious consumption is pretty much yesterday, don’t you think? So I repeat: I hope this isn’t Vancouver’s brand, or we’ll be pretty embarrassed sooner than later.

Last. It really is boring. Compare “luxury” to “intelligent”. To “innovative”. To “creative”. Which piques your interest? Which has a breath-of-fresh-air quality to it? I’m betting luxury sounds tired in comparison.

So, marketers — if I’m reading Vancouver right, lose the “luxury” angle, already. We can do better than that. Much better. Can’t we?

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