Do you have a favourite t.v. commercial? Perhaps you rarely watch TV so the question is irrelevant. Good for you. Or maybe, like me, you often just hit the “mute” button during commercials, blocking out the inanity. Still, there are some good ones out there, don’t you think? Commercials that don’t talk down to us or scream at us to get our attention. Miho and I have a favourite or two. For example, the Bounty paper towel commercial set in a kitchen and a little girl is placing a glass full of juice on the counter, right near the edge of the counter, actually over the edge. Right beside her are about 6 actors dressed as tiny paper towel squares (poor guys to get that gig!) watching the girl gingerly placing that glass precariously on the counter, then pouncing, as a group, on the juice that of course spills. Perhaps doesn’t sound cute or funny via an email but as a commercial it’s pretty cute.
There’s also a series of “Direct TV” commercials out right now, from the US, which I think are hilarious. All of them depict various horrendous scenarios that result from having cable instead of Direct TV. Here’s one, verbatim: “When your cable company keeps you on hold, you get angry (picture a guy sitting on a sofa, phone in hand, on hold). When you get angry, you go blow off steam (picture same guy playing racquetball with a buddy). When you go blow off steam, accidents happen (picture guy getting a hard racquetball shot to the eye). When accidents happen, you get an eye-patch (picture guy sitting in doctor’s office getting an eye-patch). When you get an eye-patch, people think you’re tough (picture guy sitting on the bus, with his eye-patch on, being sized up by three tattooed young hoods). When people think you’re tough, people want to see how tough (picture guy now being chased down the street by the hoods). And when people want to see how tough, you wake up in a roadside ditch (picture beaten up guy, with eye-patch, waking up in a ditch). Don’t wake up in a roadside ditch. Get rid of cable and upgrade to Direct TV”
For any of us who do watch television, or confess to it, there are of course many more commercials that we don’t like, since it’s likely fair to say there are more of those. There is one commercial that I absolutely despise. It’s from Ikea. It’s been on TV for years now so you’ve probably seen it. A middle-aged woman with blonde, curly hair is at the checkout at Ikea. As the sales person gives her the receipt the woman eyes the grand total, which is much lower than she expects. You can tell by the look on her face – she thinks she’s not been charged for something. Quietly, with haste, she quickly exits the store, walks speedily in the parking lot to her car, calling out as she races along “Harold, start the car!! Start the car!” The last scene shows this woman pumping her fist in the car, whooping it up, thinking she’s gotten away with not paying for something.
So OK, Ikea’s trying to claim they have low prices. Yet in my estimation they’re doing it by promoting stealing – yes, stealing. You may disagree, but wouldn’t we just be talking semantics? If one walks out of Ikea purposely concealing a kitchen utensil, that’s theft. Yet, when a person is inside the store, or even close by, or even not close by, and you realize the cashier has made a mistake and not charged you for that utensil, and you do nothing about it, isn’t that still theft? Isn’t the key factor what you or I choose to do or not do about such a scenario, rather than the fact of the cashier’s error? I know someone who very recently was not charged at Winners for a $60 item. The immediate response of that person was to return to Winners and address the problem. I was impressed!
I guess what we’re talking about here is honesty. Billy Joel had a hit in the late 70’s with “Honesty”. “Honesty is such a lonely word, everyone is so untrue. Honesty is hardly ever heard, and mostly what I need from you.” A great song, but not quite on the mark. Not honesty in terms of a healthy relationship between lovers, although that’s certainly a good thing. Not honesty as we often think of it, speaking one’s mind, having an opinion and sharing it, “calling it like we see it”, etc. I mean honesty as a spiritual discipline, honesty in terms of our own personal journeys, honesty as personal truth-telling, honesty with self about both our positive and not so positive actions, thoughts, inclinations.
At a recent study group gathering we looked at Theravada Buddhism. Part of that study considered the 8-fold Path, an essential tenet of Buddhist thought. All are to be sought or pursued together, yet two in particular are of interest to this discussion. “Right” or “Proper” Intention and Action. The first has to do with commitment to ethical and mental self-improvement, especially cultivating thinking that harms no one since thinking and acting are closely linked. The idea is that our intentions are to be for the benefit of all (people/world/universe) that surrounds us, perhaps even the Ikea cashier who may be reprimanded for his/her mistake. The second is a logical follow-up to the first (actually numbers 3 & 4). Our actions ought to reflect the higher path of our intentions, seeking the good of all, including dealing honestly with ourselves. From our own Scripture, in 1 John 1:6, a healthy reminder as well: “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and yet walk in darkness, we lie and do not the truth.”
When problems arise at home or at work, do we tend to blame others or engage in the hard yet healthy work of personal stock-taking? Do we find ourselves pointing fingers more than we know is proper or taking a spiritual look in the mirror? None of us is perfect, yet isn’t there always room for improvement? Honestly?
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” – Reinhold Neibuhr