Into the wild...of snow globes

If we were to-morrow morning snowed up in the street in which we live, we should step suddenly into a much larger and much wilder world than we have ever known. And it is the whole effort of the typically modern person to escape from the street in which he lives.

Heretics, by G.K. Chesterton

Not long after reading this quote, I saw the following commercial for the Travel Channel.



One success of advertising is the ability to transport consumers into other worlds. From shinier hair to roomier houses to happier friendships, we're willing to buy the promises offered because they do, indeed, appear to improve our current situation. We are not, conversely, willing to buy downward. It just isn't normal.

Likewise with traveling. In this particular commercial, the Travel Channel (Well, the folks from David&Goliath) encourages us to escape the mundane; to broaden our world by going to far-away places and interacting with strange people and customs. Yet Chesterton argues that "if what [a man] wants is people different from himself, he had much better stop at home and discuss religion with the housemaid."

Personally, I'm a fan of travel. I believe it's important to go somewhere new and exciting and uncomfortable if you have the chance. But I'm also convicted by the call to know and love my neighbor next door. Might advertisers play a role in strengthening this conviction?

Bear with me on the length of this excerpt. It's a good one and will help make my point.

We make our friends; we make our enemies; but God makes our next-door neighbour. Hence he comes to us clad in all the careless terrors of nature; he is as strange as the stars, as reckless and indifferent as the rain. He is Man, the most terrible of the beasts. That is why the old religions and the old scriptural language showed so sharp a wisdom when they spoke, not of one's duty towards humanity, but one's duty towards one's neighbour. The duty towards humanity may often take the form of some choice which is personal or even pleasurable. That duty may be a hobby; it may even be a dissipation. We may work in the East End because we are peculiarly fitted to work in the East End, or because we think we are; we may fight for the cause of international peace because we are very fond of fighting. The most monstrous martyrdom, the most repulsive experience, may be the result of choice or a kind of taste.... But we have to love our neighbour because he is there--a much more alarming reason for a much more serious operation.

Those who wish, rightly or wrongly, to step out of all this, do definitely wish to step into a narrower world.... [A]nything is bad and artificial which tends to make these people succumb to the strange delusion that they are stepping into a world which is actually larger and more varied than their own. The best way that a man could test his readiness to encounter the common variety of mankind would be to climb down a chimney into any house at random, and get on as well as possible with the people inside. And that is essentially what each one of us did on the day that he was born.

Could an agency like David&Goliath, which prides itself on bravery, dare people to do the mundane? To buy downward for the thrill of it? To go next door and discover a "much larger and much wilder world than we have ever known"?

How would D&G endorse this radical perspective? By Chesterton's account, with a great amount of bravery. I'll add creativity, too. It would take nothing short of an advertising genius to move us into a snow globe with each other instead of onto an exotic safari with friends.

-----

Something to ponder: What products or services might assist such a genius?

19 comments:

Marcus Goodyear October 7, 2009 at 9:44 AM  

Kerrville often feels like a snow globe of 20,000 people.

We have about 10 restaurants to choose from. Only the chains are open Sunday after 5:00.

I talk with my neighbors over the fence. Really.

Sometimes I get the itch to travel. But mostly, I don't.

Sam Van Eman October 7, 2009 at 9:56 AM  

This makes me imagine concentric snow globes, Marcus. Each one smaller because the contents are closer; each one richer and wilder also because it's closer.

Or one could say that you and your neighbors are like Kerrville Concentrated. :)

Megan Willome October 7, 2009 at 2:01 PM  

This is so cool b/c I'm listening to an audio version of "Heretics." I can't believe I waited so long to try Chesterton. Thanks!

Sam Van Eman October 7, 2009 at 3:02 PM  

Megan, I really like the way he puts words together.

Glad you stopped by!

Real Live Preacher October 7, 2009 at 3:47 PM  

A very intriguing post. Got me doing some thinking.

nAncY October 7, 2009 at 5:00 PM  

products and services? once upon a time it was the need for a cup of sugar that sent one to a neighbor. the things that come to mind right away are things like a lawnmowers, tillers, trucks, pet food, greeting cards, flowers and plants, garden plants, fences, porch swings, cooking and food, ymca, bbq grills, house paint, furniture...

it would be interesting to see more commercials with the neighbor or neighborhood theme in mind.

Sam Van Eman October 9, 2009 at 9:00 AM  

Gordon, thanks for the article over at High Calling Blogs. (Folks, you can find Gordon's good reflection on my snow globe post here.)

nAncY, my wife once found the neighbor's measuring cup in our sugar bin. Caught red-handed! But we were flattered that she felt comfortable enough to do it.

"Fences" is an interesting inclusion from your list. Say more?

nAncY October 10, 2009 at 8:21 PM  

well,sam
my neighbors and i don't have fences, we have trees and buildings, and a bit of space. but, when i think of all the people in towns, and in the burbs, i think of all kinds of fences. i knew three nighbors in portland that lived window to window and left their back yards open to eachother because they got along so well. maybe the fences can be more like picket fences with rose covered openings to the neighbors yards. anyway, when i think of fences, i always think of having it at a height that one can lean on it and chat witht he neighbor. it seems people like to board themselves up and away from their neighbors now. a shorter fence is like having a front porch and a swing on a street with a sidewalk. it invites people to come and chat. it is a space inbetween public and private. i think that front porches with swings and streets with sidewalks is something that is kind of like a fence that is not to tall.

kind of like a wave or a smile.

nAncY October 10, 2009 at 8:22 PM  

i like the story of the measuring cup in the sugar bin. good one.

Bradley J. Moore October 13, 2009 at 6:22 AM  

Sam - this is a very provocative idea. Especially at the end, where you challenge the advertising agency to make our own neighbors seem adventurous. It is all a matter of perspective, I would say...Some have more of a hankering than others for travel (which for centuries seems to be linked with adventure), while others find all the joy they could ever fathom in the back yard.

Sam Van Eman October 13, 2009 at 8:13 AM  

nAncY, Interesting way of viewing a short fence: "it invites people to come and chat." Hadn't thought of it like that, but it's where my neighbor and I meet all of the time.

Bradley, I hear you on perspective. I tried to be careful to push people toward next door without undervaluing travel.

nAncY October 13, 2009 at 12:44 PM  

visiting neighbors with out getting into their "personal space". to go a space that is neutral, where people are welcome to come into, is very positive in traveling to the country of neighbor. let's think of neighbor as a country or a lovely city...like paris. one needs to find a friendly neutral place to arrive. travelers do not usually just drop right into a country or city where we are not welcome.

ok...let's say some one told us that they went to paris last week, and some one else said that they went to neighbor last week.

see we already know that paris is a hunky dory place and who ever goes there is really cool and is allowed to do cool stuff.

but neighbor...we already know what that means. instead of "the neighbor" we have to think "to" neighbor.

now, if we give neighbor another name, a made up name that sounds like a place of travel, somewhere exotic. then all kinds of ideas of what it is and what we can do come to mind. we can get really creative...presto, travel without a boarding pass. all we need is the mind of adventure in creativity and Love. skip the luggage. so...got any ideas for name?

nAncY October 13, 2009 at 12:46 PM  

oh..and let's see if we can do our own advertising campaign.

Sam Van Eman October 13, 2009 at 1:23 PM  

Ooh, sounds fun. Even using "neighbor" with the article makes me think differently.

Country of Neighbor
City of Neighbor

Verbs would help:
"I'm traveling to Neighbor."
"Then we'll spend the next few hours at Neighbor."
"Looking forward to visiting Neighbor."

I think the word neighbor must be used, especially if we want to shift the way we think about it. Even foreign words for neighbor, such as Le Voisin or El Vecino, might not have the same effect.

Any other ideas?

nAncY October 13, 2009 at 1:48 PM  

i like that reasoning.
but, before we stick with that.
let us just consider a few others

like

neighbora bora

or

neighbourgh

Sam Van Eman October 13, 2009 at 1:51 PM  

Or slight variations:

Neighborough

Neighburg (Pittsburgians would appreciate Neighburgh - with the "h")

nAncY October 13, 2009 at 2:48 PM  

oooh. i like borough!

another thing to consider is far travel and near travel. going far is worth more of a stay than going near. going far seems like more of an ideal destination. however, since the price of gas has gone up and flying is no longer a place to be tended to and pampered, near travel is calling a little bit louder.


neighbor (n.)
O.E. neahgebur (W.Saxon), nehebur (Anglian), from neah "near" (see nigh) + gebur "dweller," related to bur "dwelling"

if politians can come up with names for things to make them sound more palateable, then maybe i can too.

so, how about a delectable name for near-travel?

near travel to neighbor is the opposite paying to be pampered. to travel to neighbor, one must bring...

nAncY October 13, 2009 at 2:49 PM  

oops, politians...
i hope you can translate my spelling.

Sam Van Eman October 13, 2009 at 3:32 PM  

Fun little etymology lesson. Near dwelling.

Re: near travel, that works for me as another way of re-framing "neighbor."

Delectable? How about something to rhyme with safari? Like Nigh-visitare.

Nigh=near; visitare=visit in Italian (pronounced vee see tah' day)

Okay, I need to work on a few other items or else I won't be able to host a Nigh-visitare.

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