I just bought a pineapple. That in itself is not a major achievement. But it becomes something extraordinary when you consider that I left the grocery store and carried the pineapple two blocks back to my apartment in the snow. It snowed three inches the other day in New York, and winter is not for another five weeks.
That you can get a pineapple in the middle of November in New York doesn’t strike many people as odd or even interesting. After all, capitalism and trade have made all sorts of goods and services available to nearly everyone. That’s a good thing. If you wanted, you could get roses from Chile, Brussels sprouts from California, and cod fish from Vladivostok simply by walking into your neighborhood supermarket. At worst, you’d have to order them online, but then Amazon is working on a delivery system that practically fillets the cod for you by the time you get home from work.
And have you seen the produce section at Safeway lately? It looks like the Garden of Eden minus the wandering jaguars and birds-of-paradise.
Like Henry Higgins, I am a compassionate man, so I won’t bore you about how convenience–consumerism–has desensitized us to the wonder of eating a pineapple in November. However, I did see a scene on Netflix recently in which one of the Catholic monarchs of Spain, who sponsored Columbus’ voyages, cuts into a pineapple and is pleasantly surprised. At first, he is as bewildered as Woody Guthrie in a scene from an older movie in which Guthrie first comes across an artichoke plant in California. Both pineapple and artichoke look like they came from Venus. They still do. It is beyond debate that capitalism has provided incredible things to make life easier, safer, and more interesting, not that I would stand on line overnight to get the latest iPhone. In fact, I’m still using a 5s, which provides endless fun for certain techies I know.
Leonard Read captured the genius of capitalism via the price system in a famous essay entitled “I Pencil” (1958). Read pointed out that no one knows how to make a pencil. We have to rely on the expertise and good will of people we have never met and most likely never will meet. Milton Friedman made much hay of this years later. Of course, this is true. I don’t know how a toilet bowl works let alone my laptop. For the latter, I rely on engineers, designers, and others. However, I still reserve the right to complain about the stupidity of blow dryers in the Men’s Room. I’d like to meet the guy who thought that up.
And forget socialism. It’s sins should be obvious to all but the most ideological, most of whom are too young to know better and ought to be forgiven, or too old to admit they are wrong. As Jesus said on the cross, “non sanno quello che fanno” (They know not what they do). He didn’t actually say it in Italian, but that’s how it comes out in my parish.
It is true that we have lost our sense of wonder. I was reminded of this once when I saw a young boy at Columbus Circle jumping up and down in awe at the horses drawing carriages around Central Park. At first I thought he was acting out, but then I realized he was pointing to something incredible that the rest of us–adults–have become so accustomed to that we hardly notice unless we step in a pile of horse dung. He was right. There were horses, of all things, on the street clop, clop, clopping along with taxis, automobiles, trucks, and buses. How did that happen? Who would have thought? Could anything be more incongruous?
Wonder is related to marvel, which comes from Latin (mirabilia). It means to look or stare at things. Whenever someone says to you, “Whadda you lookin’ at?”, that’s wonder. Thomas Aquinas believed wonder is the source of philosophy, which begins with inquiry. In commenting on Aristotle’s Metaphysics, he said that philosophers and poets are similar in that both are “big with wonder.” Being “big with wonder” is a necessary step in attaining wisdom.
There’s an added benefit to being big with wonder. It makes you feel alive and grateful. For instance, you can’t walk down a snow covered street with a pineapple under your arm and not be joyful. It’s just not possible.
Haven’t had enough? Go to Robert Brancatelli. Feature image by Fancycrave.com from Pexels; middle and bottom images by Pineapple Supply Co. from Pexels. The Brancatelli Blog is a member of The Free Media Alliance. This one is for Mike McGowan: roommate, runner, reefer man extraordinaire.
danbin1989_Earn 156 euro/day, it’s here>http://moneyflow24.icu/#85XUZKR
Capitalism is not the end all to world contentment and satisfaction Rob. It is a theoretical tool. Monopolys and special interest dictate the pace in many ways. The law of created Supply and Demand is an outrage. The AMA has lobbiests to limit the amount of Doctors and Dentists to exert their fair share of pound of Flesh. The medical industry is a legalized Mafia to perpetuate medicines and procedures 1000% times their costs to address the ” Demand for relief” by how much people are willing to pay for their lives. In alot of cases the demands are created. Insurance Companys lobby and are sanctioned by corrupt politicians. This is just an example of the dangers of Capitalism. Monopolies gear industrys and impose retribution if there are competitors that would jeapordize their market share. Not to mention peoples lives that are disrupted big time from unemployment that cause multinationals to outsourse for a cheaper overhead. The practice and allegance to Capitalism is not a Shangrila.Corruption and Greed must always have to be counted in the equation of ” free enterprise”. What I mention is just the tip of,the iceberg. If I really want a Pineapple, Ill buy American and hope that I can still find them in Hawaii!
I don’t have much to argue with you, Bernie, except to say that the flaws of one system excel the propaganda of the other. I’m talking about capitalism and socialism. Of course, crony capitalism, greed, extravagance, and exploitation exist. There’s the Chinese version of capitalism, which resembles unadulterated mercantilism and colonialism, especially in Africa. There’s also consumerism, which will go into full throttle from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. Still, I guess I’d rather deal with all that than what’s going on in Venezuela and the ideologues who defend it. They’re starving there, let alone eating pineapples.
Robert, I loved reading your post:). The best part was the picture I had in mind of you walking down a snowy street with a pineapple! Speaking of wonder; I’m thinking that the young boy in Central Park might have jumped up and down seeing you with a pineapple in the snow.
The next thing I’d like to know is how you will cut the pineapple, always an obstacle in mind, when I consider buying a pineapple?
I’m now inspired and longing for pineapple. Also, a pineapple upside down cake for dinner?
You have just achieved the pièce de résistance: pineapple upside down cake! I remember my grandmother baking them. Great memory.
You did surprisingly well for someone who doesn’t know how toilet bowl works….
It’s true, Mr. Betz, although I know a load when I see one.