THINK OF YOURSELF AS OIL…. JUST BEING CONSUMED
Did you ever think of yourself as oil? Or, as the new oil? I never did.
I never imagined myself as bubbling crude or any other kind for that matter.
Yet, that’s what I’ve just been told: I am the new oil. No kidding!
You are too.
You see, according to Dirk Helbing in his wonderfully illuminating and remarkably erudite essay featured on edge.org, businesses are buzzing about the new oil, otherwise known as personal data.
You know what that is. It’s all that information about ourselves that we post on Facebook, and Twitter and other social media.
Dirk says all this personal data stuff is like a “new gold rush.”
Yippee! Everyone loves gold! Everyone loves a rush!
Dirk goes into great detail about this new state of affairs, which he claims will be dominated by something called “Big Data.” In the next ten years alone, he predicts we will produce as many data, or even more data, than in the past 1,000 years! Phew!
He goes on to mention other important things, such as how some people feel we don’t need privacy in society (but that’s not necessarily his personal point of view) and how there are potential hazards to mismanaged data. He even mentions something about crowds, natural disasters, and data. However, I think I need to reread this a few times until it really sinks in.
Dirk also stresses this important point: “Our future information society will be characterized by computers that behave like humans in many respects.” Although I can’t help but feel that he’s being a wee bit ironic here. After all, so many people I know already behave remarkably like Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
That detail aside, overall, human characteristics will be hot, hot, hot stuff, says Dirk. As he explains: “If we would learn how to stabilize trust, or build trust, that would be worth a lot of money, really.”
Oh, heck, I suppose in Dirk’s crazy world, everything is destined to become a commodity.
Oops, I forgot. It already is!
We are all already oil.
THE WELLNESS FACTORY- Part 1
I know wellness well.
From the age of nineteen I embarked on what today would be described as a “wellness” lifestyle.
This was back in the early 80’s, the age of the “gym bunny” and jogging. Jane Fonda had just released her wildly successful exercise tapes, and I worked part time at a Health Club in order to have membership privileges.
Five nights a week you could find me “pumping iron” on the Nautilus machines, riding nowhere on the stationary bicycle, or jumping up and down in high voltage calisthenics class.
Sometimes I played racquetball and afterwards relaxed in the steam room or booked an hour-long Swedish massage.
This was the beginning of the “me” generation—the generation in which I came of age.
However, my introduction to wellness had begun years earlier.
Wellness arrived in my life via my mother, who was a devoted fan of the beauty and fitness guru Gaylord Hauser and who made weekly trips to the local Health Food Store. There, I would peruse the products as I stood along her side.
I remember my mother purchasing carob powder to use as a chocolate substitute, evening primrose oil, and the blue-green algae known as spirulina.
I can still picture her tossing a handful of Swiss Kriss herbal laxative into a pot of boiling water, part of her facial cleansing routine, or practicing her Lotte Berk method, a combination of dance, orthopedic exercises and Hatha yoga.
By the time I was a teenager, while other teens might have been experimenting with drugs, I began experimenting with vegetarianism, yoga, and meditation.
At the age of twenty, I purchased a copy of Life Extension: A Practical Scientific Approach, the bible of anti-aging science that became a bestseller. On its pages I found recommendations for ways to “beat the clock” and read about things like subversive free radicals, and neurotransmitters.
I began popping handfuls of supplements, drinking wheatgrass juice, and practicing pranic breathing at the Himalayan Institute in lower Manhattan.
You could often find me lunching at the Ginseng Center that was located on 5th Avenue, where they served Mulligatawny soup with a side of Royal Jelly ampoules.
I found a group of friends who were self-administering B12 shots.
In those days, wellness was still considered a fringe phenomenon. It was on its way to gaining mainstream traction, but remained something practiced by relatively few.
Finding an integrative doctor to administer vitamin shots, or an acupuncturist to rebalance your adrenals, wasn’t just a few clicks away. Manhattan didn’t yet have juice bars, yoga studios, and vitamin shops on every other corner.
There were no online cleanses. There was no Goop.
Today, “wellness” is a global industry valued in the billions that includes everything from tourism to alternative medicine. There are wellness retreats, vacations, courses, and conventions. There are therapies, treatments, and classes.
A recent article in New York Magazine mentions the “Wellery” recently opened in Saks Fifth Avenue where shoppers can “can experience aroma and light therapy in a glass filled booth with salt, or get plugged into a meditation app during a manicure.”
You don’t have to look far. Wellness is wherever you are.
When I think back to my younger self, already on the front lines of this trend, I question what I was seeking at the time. Was it the promise of longevity, vitality, and good health? Was I already tuned in to the anxieties of modern life, perhaps via my mother?
After my mother died of a brief and sudden illness at the age of 52, I found this written in one of her notebooks: Start breathing deeply, yoga to calm down, acu-pressure massage to get energy flowing again, body brush with seaweed.
I think about this more than ever as I see today’s wellness trend explode.
It makes me wonder, what is making us feel so unwell?
To be continued. . .
Staying young and beautiful has never been easier, or more expensive. Exploring the high cost(s) of maintenance.
It was the day after Trump was elected, and I found myself in lower Manhattan sipping an $8 green juice out of a clear plastic cup.
I’d come downtown to take care of some administrative business and, after having navigated the underground corridors of 1 Centre Street in these pursuits, treated myself to a fresh squeezed concoction of kale, spinach, apple, and cucumber.
Wellness must have been on my mind. But to strive to be “well” I understood was to keep other truths at bay. Still, it was warm for November. The sky was crystalline blue, and the juice was refreshing. I was happy to be back in my hometown.
Crossing Wall Street, I came across a man with a bullhorn shouting the president elect’s name. A small crowd was gathering around him.
I heard someone say, “What do we do now?”
Head scratching was the order of the day. A lot of shock and awe. For a moment, I felt I was in a movie. But New York is always like that, a bit cinematic and spectacular. Ordinary things are filtered through a haze of fairy dust.
I continued walking, passing familiar streets: Water Street, Pearl Street, Pine Street, John Street, and Dey. These are streets I have known all my life.
This is where I had my first real job, at the now defunct John Wanamaker department store. This is where my long deceased mother once worked as a banker. This is where my mother and I would meet for lunch: at the Woolworth Building, or the Sky Dive Restaurant on the 44th floor in the former World Trade Center.
This is where the Towers fell.
As I finished my green juice, I slipped into Century 21, the discount designer megastore.
Half an hour later, I slipped back out, empty-handed, having purchased nothing.
Shopping had once been my drug of choice. Shopping had filled what felt like a vast hole inside me. It was nearly impossible for me to enter a store and leave empty-handed.
But things change, they are formed and reformed.
I was about to give this some deeper thought when my mind was distracted.
Just across 6th Avenue, the new Tower loomed in front of me. At street level, the entrance to the World Trade Center transportation hub was flanked by the fine white bones of the Oculus.
I’d heard about this architectural masterpiece. I’d read about its exorbitant expense and its rampant consumerist theme. It was imperative that I go inside.
If there is any fairy dust in the Oculus, it is impossible to see. The stark whiteness of the interior acts as an antiseptic. The arched cathedral ceiling looms spectacularly high. The floors are white marble and buffed to a mirror polish. The overall feeling is futuristic, with a touch of retro, as if this is the future we’d imagined in the past.
The shopping is the same kind you find in any transportation hub, or airport around the world with the usual “big’ brands. Names you can recite in your sleep.
In fact, I’ve come to think of this kind of “shopping,” in these uber-mall environments, as the perfect foil for conscious thinking. Shopping that can be performed in a semi-somnambulistic state.
I’m not immune to this kind of consumerism. After all, I’d just finished sipping an overpriced juice with some vague sense of the “wellness” it might impart on me.
Yet, as I stood in the whale-belly shaped Oculus, I couldn’t help but think back to September 11, 2001, when we were all told that “normal” meant we should just go out and shop.
In the days following 9/11, shopping was the last thing on my mind.
But 2001 was the beginning of the 21st Century. It was now late 2016.
As I turned my back on the Oculus and headed back outside, I thought of the man with the bullhorn I’d seen earlier that morning. How much of a crowd had gathered around him, I wondered.
I rolled the five words I’d overheard inside my head: “What do we do now?”
photo: Hufton +Crow
Back in the day, I had hair like the blonde and I loved to shop at Fiorucci. They had the sexiest jeans, no question. And who can forget the label conscious lyrics from Sister Sledge’s “Greatest Dancer.”
Still, hearing that this iconic brand is being resurrected comes with mixed feelings.
Curious to see what they make of it, although part of me thinks some things should be left in the past. Or maybe I’m just peeved because I can’t wear jeans like that anymore!
Then again, a bit of disco era decadence might be what we need right now.
It’s Groundhog Day. . .and I need a taste of spring
On the streets of Paris…