Thoughts on the future of shopping:


I am making every attempt to be progressive, and I consider myself a futurist, but I have to ask: Why we are eliminating the in-person shopping experience altogether? I suppose it could be helpful to try things on in the metaverse and purchase them there for them to be shipped to me. This, I actually understand. I certainly understand it better than simply shopping online for clothes that you can’t try on. I have talked to many people since online shopping became commonplace, who purchase a few sizes online and then ship the ones back that don’t fit. While I get that we have to look out for ourselves and do what makes the most sense for us, this just seems wrong. It’s a waste. It’s people in a warehouse picking things in three sizes and then shipping them to an address, then people will try them on, and return the ones that don’t fit, to be put back into the warehouse. I can’t imagine that it’s great for the companies to waste so much time and energy on the sale of the item and environmentally, it doesn’t add up. Also, and arguably most importantly, where is the human interaction? There’s an expression that goes: “I love humanity, but I’m not sure about humans.” Well, I fell like we have to take control of the future of humanity and if we can no longer exist with each other, save for the few of us who still work with others, what’s the point? I mean it, where does it go from here? I opened a general store in a small town because I thought I could help counter the automation “progress” and encourage pedestrian life and community building. I did this right before people starting using “click and go” grocery shopping. People would rave about how easy these grocery pick-up points were – how great it was that they didn’t have to interact with others. It hurt my heart, not for my business, but for humanity. Now I find myself using the automated cashiers because the line ups are too long to experience human interaction. There is a Ministry of Loneliness in the UK. Mental health is suffering all over the world. How do people meet friends, mentors, lovers, partners anymore? Is it working? It’s all connected. It’s up to us. We are the ones writing the script for the future. Personally, I want human connection in real life to survive even if it’s not always easy and comfortable.

Thoughts on the future of privacy:

When I first heard about cameras going up everywhere, I remember saying I wasn’t opposed to it because I’m not doing anything really wrong…right?

Next I was being monitored by my spending.  Getting annoyed that the “deciders that be” allowed for this intrusion for the sake of capitalism and data tracking, but I wasn’t too bothered by it because I accepted that this was a part of the cost of doing business nowadays.

Surely, I agreed to all of this monitoring when I signed up for the rewards card, or the credit card, or whatever it was. 

What was I going to do about it anyway? 

Then came the in-home eavesdroppers. This is where I drew the line. While it would be convenient to have a machine lower the volume and tell me the weather, I wasn’t prepared to give away all of my personal information (again, not that there’s anything that interesting but still…) 

I already have my phone listening when it is on. It’s funny – every time the conversation comes up with friends about being listened to by our phones, someone says, “do you really think that’s happening” and then, inevitably the response comes back “oh yeah, 100%, listen to what I saw on my feed after I was talking about something totally random…” 

Where I am torn is on the health tracking front.  I love counting my steps as much as the next person, and I’m sure this data benefits the individual using the device as much, if not more, than the company collecting the information.  But what about the implications of this data being sold to other end users, such as insurance companies?  

I’d like to see some discussion and debate but even questioning it makes people uncomfortable. It seems that everyone is just resigned to accept the intrusion on our privacy in the name of the “convenience” these technologies provide. Are we all just living on display for data purposes? Why should it even matter? What happens to dancing like no one is watching when someone always is?   

If we could dream up the perfect world, what would we use it for? Buying digital shoes with real money? Let’s redirect.

I was recently at a futurist conference and I was speaking to another lawyer about my concerns about the creation of a world (the metaverse) where people are living as avatars and playing games and spending ridiculous amounts of time and money on things like digital shoes for their avatar to wear to a party in the metaverse. I mean it, I am concerned about this because there are people sleeping in tent cities all around the world with zero access to the basics for a healthy life, not to mention the needed proper mental health care and then there are others who are living in a fake world and buying fake shoes to show off at a fake party. The colleague I was speaking with looked at me and said: “Who cares? Seriously, what do you care?” I laughed it off and responded: “yeah, I guess you’re right, who cares?” I thought to myself: people drive Maseratis downtown and buy baby clothes from high end retailers that would cover the average monthly mortgage payment of any north American, and while I think this is disproportionate, it doesn’t bother me as much as purchasing wearables in the metaverse. I am 47. I am not a gamer. I get there is a whole world out there that I will only slightly be a part of, but I think it’s important that we question all of this and the direction it takes us. I know there is a lot of good that is being created in the simulated worlds, but commercialism is a weird and unnecessary angle, IMHO. Let me know what you think!

Be Kind

Be kind to others. We really don’t know what they are going through. So many people are suffering and we all talk about mental health and the importance of protecting it and yet I have to search far and wide sometimes for goodness; people are often cruel or indifferent. The truth is, the good comes from within. It comes from love of self and that can spread out to the love of others. Not everyone has love of self. We have to remember this in all of our interactions. It’s not easy, especially on the fly!

ps. Being kind does not mean subjecting yourself to unkind people on purpose, it just means be kind in your limited interactions 🙂

Santa’s Earth Day Message

Dear Parents, 

I have been a busy Santa for so long that I have not taken the time to go on a vacation for over 50 years. I stay up in the North Pole and tinker around the workshop managing the elves year-round, unless it is Christmas Day, of course. Lately, I have noticed that the landscape close to my home is changing rapidly; I see less snow than I used to.

Last year, I decided it was time to go back to my favourite little place in the world where Ms. Claus and I had such a wonderful time long ago. I looked it up online only to discover that it has completely disappeared. It was submerged underwater and lost forever because of climate change.

I used to keep up with the news but because there has just been so much going on all over the world, I rarely watch anymore. My doctor has told me to keep things positive and to only listen to the happy news channel. You see, Santa always wants to understand why the people on the naughty list don’t seem to learn the importance of trying to do the right thing. I always think I can steer the “naughty-listers’’ in the right direction; however, some have caused me terrible heartache. This is why my advisors have counselled me to create boundaries and not follow all of the bad news so closely. This must be why I was unaware of the havoc being caused by climate change all over the world. 

Santa went down the rabbit hole and learned all about the environmental struggles that our planet is facing. I was very sad to learn about how much the earth has transformed in such a short period. I started thinking of ways that I could help. After talking it over with my senior elves, I decided it was time to reach out and share my thoughts with all of you. 

Santa and my advisors held consultations to put together a plan to get the right message out to the world as quickly as possible so that next Christmas can be a new beginning for all. We feel that Earth Day is the perfect day to share our important message as we need to reach as many people as possible.

WE NEED TO STOP CONSUMING SO MUCH: This means that we have to change the expectations of children at Christmas time. If your children are used to getting lots of gifts from Santa, tell them about this letter. Please tell them that Santa cares too much about them and the earth and has decided that from now on, he will try to give gifts that are very durable, preferably made of natural materials and ethically sourced. I have also decided that it is time to outsource some of the gift-making. I have reached out to many artisans and small businesses around the world and asked them to take more of the load off of the elves from now on. There are a few reasons for this partnership:  A greater number of the gifts will be locally sourced, and purchasing from them will mean supporting local, small businesses and their families; by supporting companies that care about human beings and the health of the earth, we can bring about needed change to our environment that is being polluted and harmed by the mass-production of cheap, disposable items in unsustainable ways. Finally, I have tasked the elves with an even more important role, to fight climate change year-round. 

The elves will have less time to tinker in the workshop. Gifts will cost more and there will be fewer gifts per child, but children will receive quality items.  Children will be reminded of the importance of supporting their communityappreciating good craftsmanship, and generally becoming more aware and environmental at the same time. Gifts from Santa should be appreciated and children should be excited about them. I have noticed over the years, that because there are just so many gifts under the tree, kids are losing interest in the spirit of Christmas and the bulk of gifts end up barely used nor appreciated. This is not good for the environment nor is it good for the future of humanity.

WE NEED TO CHOOSE GIFTS THAT ARE ENVIRONMENTALLY PACKAGED: Generally speaking, gifts should not be wrapped in any kind of plastic. Many other packaging alternatives are better for the earth and we should be reusing materials or supporting those companies that are paying more out of their pockets to create recyclable or biodegradable wrapping. I started a pilot project a few years ago with parents in different countries where I asked them to collect all of the single socks they find in the house, those whose pair seems to have mysteriously disappeared in the washing machine or the dryer. I requested that about one month before Christmas or with the children’s Christmas lists, parents send me a bag of those socks (washed please) so that we, here at the wrapping station, can slip the little gifts such as stockings stuffers into them and use them over and over again every year. This helps us reduce waste. The pilot project was a success and now I’m going to try to get more parents to send me their mismatched socks. It’s a good start for sure. 


We are all in this together and we must do what we can to save the environment. Let’s start living every day with all of this in mind. We are all capable of changing things, one step at a time. We need to teach the children how to preserve mother earth.

I have a long list of things that people can do together to make Christmas time special and to focus on experiences rather than things, a lot of them involve music and healthy and delicious food so stay tuned. I also welcome suggestions if any of you have ideas to share.

This Earth Day, I am targeting Christmas because I can; because I am Santa; but I would like this message to reach everyone all over the world. I would like us all to consider our actions every single day when we purchase items, when we make anything to sell, and when we discard things. 

Let’s work together to make the world healthier. 

For now, please share this letter with everyone you know, please read it to your children. It’s up to us all together, to save the planet and still enjoy our time here! 

HAPPY EARTH DAY TO ALL!


Love,

Santa

HO HO HO

Don’t be a jerk (part 1)

“Is this who you would want to be?’’

“Would you want to be the kind of person who does that?”

“Would you want to win that way?”

It’s probably not the most orthodox parenting style. I will offer the possible outcomes of their actions from my experience in life to help them along and perhaps my tone is more persuasive when I am describing the better option but ultimately, I want them to learn it all. I want them to know what it feels like to make the right decision and what it feels like to make the wrong one; when someone else is watching and when no one is watching. Experience is the best teacher. I just really want them to be kind and strong because even though we have so much, life is not easy.

What you do matters. How you do things matters. Working hard matters. Good grades matter. Good neighbours matter. Helping others matters. Cooking good food and sharing a table with children regularly matters. Smiling at people, waving at people in the country, holding the door for anyone including the elderly, pregnant women, and yes, even young capable strong white men. Within reason, and without too much disruption, we can take the one or two seconds it takes to be kind. Is it appreciated? Who knows? Why does it matter? Because all of these things feel good and do good and they hurt no one, and they all add up to make your life. Who do you want to be?

What is it all about? Everyone has their own way of understanding this question, but for me, the simplest way to boil it down is that most of us know right from wrong and good from bad and at the end of it all, when we look back or even after we’re gone, how do we want to be remembered? What lessons are we teaching? How much are we loving? We are all going to make mistakes; the point is to try to be better until the end. The objective is to try to do some good in the world. This is what I believe “it” is all about.

First of all…

If you wish to be a writer, write.”

Epictetus

This goes for everything. I have, like everyone else, a million excuses that I have allowed to prevent me from moving forward in various pursuits. The truth is, if one wishes to do something, especially something like writing, or drawing, or music, one should just do it. Practice makes perfect, self-discipline is key. It is all so familiar, we have heard it a thousand times, so let’s just get to it. Seriously.

Happy International Women’s Day

#Choose to Challenge

On this International Women’s Day, I have one wish. That all human beings treat each other empathetically and with kindness. How different the world would be if we didn’t paint ourselves or each other into corners.

#ChoosetoChallenge is a great theme and we have to remember that challenging the powers that be comes with a whole new set of potentially scary baggage thanks to the cruel and hurting people on the internet. As much as I believe that speaking up and challenging the status quo is the best place to start, I know first hand that it can fall on deaf ears if you are not loud enough or if you are not willing to risk your peace and your family’s peace to make change. So, if you’re like most of us, start small; be kind, be supportive, challenge fiercely but intelligently and respectfully, and listen. Women are more than daughters, mothers and wives, we are capable co-leaders of the human race. Let’s build the foundation for future generations of women and men and everyone in between to soar together, in peace.

Elders

They are so important, all of them, even the not-so-great ones. Their experience can teach us. We may never act on their advice, but at least, it’s there. I have always had a fascination with elders. I am the person who wants to go through the photo albums in people’s homes and ask tons of questions about who is from where and what did they overcome and what impression did they leave? I also have a deep conviction that our elders and their pain sit within us, to a certain degree. I am not a psychologist, and I am not purporting to be anything other that a deeply curious person with a penchant for world peace but I suppose the books I read and the people I learn from have shown me that this is possible and I choose to believe it for many reasons, and some of them are even selfish.

We will all hopefully become elders, who do we want to be? How do we heal ourselves or tell our stories for the next generation to grow to be wise to guide the next?

I have this vision, it appears to be of a native circle, where there is an elder man or woman who is sought by the young for advice and wisdom. I always just thought this was going to happen, that there would be those people around to tap into. But who are these sages? Who are the wise ones? In an age where there are so many ways to communicate and yet everyone is separated and family is complicated and we have seen too much pain from the institutions that were created to plug that hole, where do we go?

Chop wood, carry water

A long time ago now, a woman who became very dear to me gave me some important advice that has helped me throughout my life. Her name is Victoria, she is a massage therapist and she doesn’t know this, but she is the person who started me on this path of what I’ll call ”hopeful enlightenment”.

I was a stressed-out, anxious mother of two at the time and I had a blocked lower back from pain. She came recommended to me by another wonderful woman who is a good friend of hers. I knew she was special because you had to be referred to her as well.  She wouldn’t massage just anyone, and I felt special that I was granted access to her.  She is a beautiful, independent, strong woman. I had no idea of her age at the time, but learned later that she was in her sixties and I was amazed at her strength and stamina.

I will never forget how happy I was to meet her.

She made her way to my house in Montreal in her little car and, every time, unloaded her massage table, candle, great music, bringing all her good energy into my space.  Every time Victoria came over, she helped me in some way, whether she had me on the floor doing various yoga postures and deep breathing exercises, or whether she had me be still and allow for some quiet to settle my brain, she seemed to know just what to do.

The piece of advice I want to talk about here was shared during one of these appointments, at a time when I was really having a tough time with the world. All of the news seemed so terrible on the radio, in the newspaper, and even the political climate in Quebec was taking its toll on our otherwise awesome piece of Canada.

Victoria showed up, saw the state I was in and when I told her how I was feeling she told me she didn’t listen to the news anymore because it never brought her peace and it just upset her. I have to admit, I judged her, thinking to myself: ”How in the world can you deliberately be uninformed?” She could see that I was weirded out, she said she knows what it sounds like but she does it for self-preservation. “Ok, I can see that”, I said, “but even if you don’t read or hear the news, you still get wind of the big stuff, the terrible stuff, the sad stuff, the unbelievably unfair stuff” and so on.

So I asked her how she stays so positive and kind and strong? She said: “You know what Sarah? When I feel like I’m getting crippled by thoughts of all of the pain and suffering in the world, I just chop wood and carry water.” She explained to me that she just gets through these tough times by doing what needs to get done, by going back to the basics and eventually time passes.

Victoria became a good friend, a bit of a spiritual mentor, and a modern day “elder” to me. She taught me important things that humans need to share with each other, in person.

Over the last number of years, I have told myself that old Zen proverb again and again. It’s so simple, it goes like this: “Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water; after enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.” It has deep spiritual meaning but practically speaking, it’s a tool that I use to help me navigate the world and my thoughts when times are tricky. Just do what you need to do, one foot in front of the other, step by step…and in the end, have a little faith that you’ll be able to handle what comes. There will always be tough times, how we navigate them is what’s important; chop wood and carry water.