Another sunny day and Mattie is spending it under the bed. I’m not at all happy about this; despite the fact she has been limping for a few days and needs rest. She should at least be staring out the window at the waves, or on the deck sniffing sea air.
Reminds me of when I was a kid. “Go out and play,” my mother would say, as she watched me curl deeper into the couch, halfway through my second Nancy Drew book of that fine Saturday. She didn’t get it, couldn’t possibly fathom that the Mystery of the Golden Eye and The Clue of the Dancing Puppet were more compelling to me than anything outside.
What must Mattie think (think?), as I try to lure her from her hideout with smelly treats and trickery—promises of birds to chase, even though the Vet said she shouldn’t be off leash yet? What must she feel as I crouch under the bed and beg and cajole with silly sounds and squeaky toys?
You’re making me nervous.
It’s our retreat time at the beach. In addition to spending quality time with my dog, and painting, I’ve tasked myself with making progress on a few key projects, including the redesign of my website. Which of course means rethinking everything. Which of course, means seeing what everybody else is doing. Which means hours surfing the net. Learning, yes. Researching, certainly. But in addition, a sure fire way to get outside myself, compare myself and come up either short or better than. An inadequacy marketing campaign, directed at myself. The message: Go consume more knowledge and information. You aren’t good enough yet.
Jonah Sachs, in his illuminating book, Winning the Story Wars, explains that the marketing industry, since its inception, has played on our fear, greed and vanity by making us feel in urgent need… of buying things. Marketers of the early 20th century based their approach on the theories of Freud, whose view of the human psyche was not pretty. We humans are aggressive, immature and overly sexual. These base drives, rooted deep within our Unconscious, must be contained. Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays, a marketing giant of those early days, designed a strategy that addressed this problem and shaped the field for decades. In order to control the masses, fuel the economy and move society towards greatness, marketers should stimulate our sense of inadequacy. To feel whole again, we shop.
We know where this has led.
Sachs defines a new trend called empowerment marketing. Inspired by Joseph Campbell’s, Hero’s Journey, the consumer is recast as a citizen-hero who moves towards bold, positive action in the face of an imperfect world. The stories uplift us; they inspire us on our path towards wholeness, transcendence and high-level values. Buying is a byproduct. Sachs shares his audacious belief that a marketer can be a “modern mythmaker with the power to shape the future.”
So, with all my dog obsessing and web surfing, I’m in need of some empowerment. At Sachs’ behest, I turn back to the Internet—this time to the Nike 2008 Courage Campaign. It opens with the words: “Everything you need is already inside.” The song, I’ve Got Soul But I’m Not a Soldier, accompanies a riveting montage of nature, children, athletic achievement and the vibrant diversity of world culture. After 64 heart-expanding, mind-altering seconds, Just Do It appears on the screen.
And I feel that I can. I have the soul and I can do it.
When I get it, when the message sinks in, I realize that Mattie the dog has been trying to tell me the same thing.
Go inside yourself.
The world is always giving clues—most often hidden in the things that disturb us, that throw us off course. Our injured pets, our stubborn kids, our body’s aches and pains, stormy weather on the day of a bike ride, the news we can’t bear, the job we didn’t get.
But too many of us, are programmed by internal inadequacy campaigns. Too many of us either read these clues as indications that we did something wrong and life is dangerous, or we ignore them while unwittingly allowing them to define our moods and attitudes.
So as we interpret events, as we make meaning, as we feel the pain of our planet, let’s ask ourselves—are we subscribing to the old-school inadequacy campaign or can we cast ourselves as heroes on a journey towards wholeness? Can we empower ourselves to offer our gifts and to make the world better?
Swear to god, cross my fingers hope to die—as soon as I write this, Mattie appears. Bless her heart; she’s in the kitchen, hunting for crumbs.