I have unsubscribed from more than 30 mailing lists over the past 24 hours. Some of them were from people trying to sell me things – daily “flash sales” and “exclusive offers” were flooding my box, increasing my sense of urgency. That’s no surprise – they are designed to do that! These “24 hours only!!” emails are supposed to make my heart rate increase, and my anxiety go up a notch – to send the message “click here and start shopping, or you will foolishly miss out!!” When the products hold no interest for me, these emails are merely annoying – making it harder to find the messages I actually want to read. When the products are instead the very sort of thing that I covet, it actually takes time out of my day – a minute or two of struggling with my conscience, which is reminding me that I don’t actually need what the email is insistent that I “BUY NOW!!!”

Retailers aren’t the only ones sending these daily urgent messages. I unsubscribed from environmental lists, labor movement lists, feminist lists, and all manner of other social justice lists too. It is much harder for me to purge content that I actually care about and believe in! But even though I agree that there is lots that needs improving in our world, I simply do not have the time – much less the emotional energy! – to engage in 10 or more disparate “URGENT!” actions in a day.

Each of us has a “to do” list, whether we write it out or not. I was allowing more than 30 people to add items to that to do list on a near daily basis.

I had an Aunt who collected music boxes. When I was a kid, my sister, brother, cousin, and I would try to get them all going at the same time – it made quite a noise! One by one, the music boxes would wind down and their music would stop. When we got tired of running around and restarting them, then the noise would get less and less, until there was one single song slowly playing, and then silence.

But email marketing just keeps going and going – it doesn’t wind down like a music box. In order to have less noise in my life, I had to take action. Already, peeking into my inbox has become a lot less stressful.

I know that God wants us to care for the world, and to live in it – but if I am going to listen for God’s voice, I am going to need to quiet all of the other voices – at least once in awhile.

Chocolate Therapy

Given the growing number of children to buy for in our families (all of whom have birthdays within a month of Christmas, to boot), my siblings and I agreed to just stick to stocking stuffer type gifts for Christmas this year.  I interpreted this to mean, “do not spend more than $15 on any adult person.”  My brother happily interpreted this to mean, “buy lots of chocolate!” And so in the cabinet in which I keep my usual single bar of “sanity chocolate,” we now have a few chocolate bars, a box of chocolates, and a large pile of individually wrapped bites of Dove almonds in dark chocolate.  Yum!

However much I like chocolate, though, I wonder if James would have picked up the latter if he knew what sort of mumbo jumbo was to be found inside the wrapper.  Apparently the marketing department at Dove has become aware that many people use chocolate for a quick “pick me up,” and they decided to build on this selling point by printing self-help phrases on the inner foil.  “You are where you are supposed to be,” affirms one.  “You’re invited to relax today,” chirps another.  I am teetering between morbid curiosity and self-righteous indignation – shall I eat another and see what it says? Or mail them all back to the chocolatier with a note explaining that I eat chocolate for the chocolate – not for the “insights” of the product label writer?

As an individual who believes in freewill, I am neither New Age-y nor Calvinistic enough to suppose that I know for certain that I am exactly where I am “supposed to be.”  And as the mother of a preschooler, I may be “invited to relax” only for the next hour and a half, after which time (cold or no cold), I am on duty, and will have (thanks to the viral invaders filling my sinus cavities) a harder time than usual staying focused and alert.  Not only do I not need my chocolate to give me permission to relax, it is in absolutely no position to do so!

So Dove, I’ll tell you what I really want on the inside of my wrappers – information about your chocolate:  about your rainforest alliance certification, for instance,  or better yet an assurance that your cocoa is not raised using child slaves.  So far, I haven’t seen any positive assertions about this.

I wonder if Dove would say that the children working against their will on cocoa plantations are where they are “supposed to be?”  Or perhaps it is only American women with disposable incomes who are “invited to relax?”  To grossly paraphrase Christ, if management loves their customers, how is that a virtue?  Every company does that.  But if management loves every person in the supply chain, truly and eagerly seeking their well being, then that is something new and different.  Today, I am praying for a transformation of the hearts of those who have the power to share – that they might find that they love people more than money after all.