Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The First Grocery Store -- Chapter 1

Ken Korczak:

People will tell you that running a small family-owned grocery store in a small town is difficult, which it is, but most people misunderstand why. For example, let’s say white-haired old Mrs. Brown comes doddering in five minutes before you were going to lock the door at the end of the day, and then takes her sweet time browsing the aisles.

Just for the hell of it, let’s say that old Mrs. Brown is wearing a horrible brown polyester pantsuit, and that this pantsuit absorbs the white florescent light of the store in such a way that the light become entombed and destroyed upon contact with the brown polyester.

Mrs. Brown takes a shopping cart, but after 25 minutes has only a 69-cent can of pork & beans and a 42-cent can of tomato soup rattling in the bottom. Then she gets to the produce section and spends an interminable time picking up and putting down cucumbers, finally deciding that she does not want a cucumber. She stops at the meat display case. She waves you over and hands you a package of pork chops with three chops in it, and asks you if she can buy only one. She tells you, “One pork chop is enough for me an my husband.”

You want to tell her to go to hell, but in a small town with a population of 711 people, you can’t do that, or the next day, the whole community will be talking about how you told sweet old Mrs. Brown to go to hell when she asked to buy a pork chop. So you tear open the pork chop pack and rewrap one pork chop with clear plastic wrap. Pork chops are selling for $1.79 per pound, making this single pork chop worth 83 cents. While you were rewrapping the pork chop another person walks into the store, and you curse yourself for forgetting to lock the door while you waited for Mrs. Brown to make her haul.

Mrs. Brown pays over $1.92 cents, and then you have to wait for the other dipstick who came in after hours, and finally after 7 o’clock you can close the doors, do the book work and get the hell out of there for the evening. You have spent 13 hours in your grocery store on this day.

But it’s not incidents like these which make owning and operating a small grocery store a difficult way of life. Rather, it is difficult because it is hard to maintain in your consciousness the essence of what it means to be a grocer, and to manifest the essence of a grocer in a way that is pure. The problems, such as the irritation of doddering old Mrs. Brown, and the horror of her light-eating brown pantsuit, constantly distract from the central truth of what one is doing on the planet -- in this case, being a grocer.

To be a pure grocer, it is extremely important that you understand the origins of the grocery store, and know what it means when someone says “original grocery store.” I’ll talk much more about this in a later chapter, but let me just make some brief comments on grocery store origins right now.

It is difficult to pinpoint and exact place in time when the first grocery store emerged into being in our strange world. The development of the grocery store as we know it today is actually fairly complex. The ancestors of the modern grocery store were most likely primitive, crude common markets.

For example, somewhere in ancient Sumer, or maybe ancient India or perhaps even way back in pre-historic Africa, some people set up an area where a variety of food stuffs could be traded or bartered. It was probably some sweltering hot, dusty area, where people wearing filthy rags, or rabbit skins, or whatever, sat down right on the dirt and lined up their pots or baskets of grains, berries, tubers, roots -- or, again, whatever -- right on the ground.

The display case was still centuries away.

These primitive people may also have had meat products on hand -- or as we would say today “in stock” -- and these meat products were probably recently dead animals of some variety, still basically whole with all their fur, or scales, and heads and tails attached -- all bloody and swarming with flies.

Some animals may have been chopped into parts so you could get just a hind quarter or a leg, or something.

Sometimes maybe quantities of black blood would spatter on the white dusty ground of the first primitive proto-grocery store, and so the blood would therefore return to the earth -- where it would re-assimilate with the basic substances that it came from in the first place after an amazing journey.

If you think about the basic substances of the earth working their way up a complex system and chain of events into which it all eventually becomes blood riding around inside the body of some animal -- well, that can give you an amazing feeling -- but I digress.

My point is, that, somewhere, at some point in the vast oceans of time, the first grocery store emerged, but that grocery store was not pure. The grocery store as we know it today is not pure either, although one might allow that it is more “advanced” than primitive grocery stores. But that’s not saying much, if anything at all, as I hope you will come to understand.

Neither primitive stores nor any of today’s grocery stores are dplicates of the archetype of the grocery store. The archetype of the “perfect grocery store” never had to “emerge” from anywhere because it has always existed. An archetype, by definition, is eternal and exists in pure form -- or does not exist in form at all.

That’s because, as you probably know, emptiness is form and form is emptiness, and just because something is a grocery store does not free it from this basic truth.

Anyway, in the great drama of human involvement on the planet earth, human beings with their constantly emerging and changing consciousness, began to develop the grocery store, and they only perceived a dim version of the eternal archetype of the pure grocery store way back in prehistory -- yet on the other hand, they perceived the pure grocery store perfectly.

It’s important for you to understand as you read this, that, at all times, I will be talking about the purest form of the grocery store whenever I mention human interaction with the concept of grocery store. If you want to understand what it means to be a grocer today -- if you own and operate a grocery store today -- nothing could be more important to you than waking up the reality of what you are really doing every day, which does not include merely what you think you are doing every day.

What is vitally important is that you awaken every day as if you were entering your grocery store for the first time -- that every day, every moment, every instant -- you have the realization that you are working in a grocery store. This will not make any of the difficulties of the grocery store go away. Mrs. Brown will keep coming in again and again in her loathsome brown pantsuit until she dies, or switches to your competition, and there is nothing you can really do about it. If you try to ban her from the store, you will only create bigger difficulties for yourself, and I think this is obvious.

So the important thing I want you to remember today is that you are in the “First Grocery Store” and you always have been. Your physical grocery store may not be the pure archetype of what a grocery store truly is, but you are still in that grocery store. What’s amazing is that you already know this, even if you think you do not. It doesn’t matter. If you don’t understand this right now, don’t worry about it. As you keep reading this, everything will come clear to you.

Today’s Exercise: Say to yourself: “I am in the first grocery store.”