Monday, January 07, 2008

imposters

Oh how the mighty have fallen. As today had already been an exercise in futility, I made a decision to change up my caffeine venue and see where I can dig up a bit of inspiration. Well…. I seem to have found some. I’m back at my favorite haunt of a year ago and my how time changes all things, including atmosphere. Let’s just say that I won’t soon be back. It is such a shame to see it a shell of its former life. A year ago my daughter worked here, a friend managed here, and all was right with the world. Not so much today.
It has fallen victim to neglect like so many other great institutions. Maybe it’s a sign of the times. I just read that Howard Shultz is going to be pulled back into actually working for his millions at Starbucks in the hopes that he can somehow, once again, work his magic and entice people to part with five bucks for a fifty cent drink. I don’t think that Starbucks is the victim of neglect though. Probably more like a bit of induced common sense. It’s been said that we’re not paying for the coffee. Quite honestly, we’re paying for the experience and atmosphere. If that is true, and I do believe that it is, then today I’ve been ripped off.
Let me put it this way, there are still poinsettias on the mantle of a cold fireplace. In fact, there are still wilted arrangements on the window sills. Now most who know me know that I have very little sense of timing when it comes to things of style, but even I can recognize that this is just wrong. Did I mention that the fireplace is cold? There are few things more pointless than a cold fireplace in January, especially when all you have to do is to push a button. I was greeted by nearly catatonic baristas, which is beyond my comprehension with this much caffeine flowing. I came here for inspiration and instead was served an overpriced grande cup of depression.
This chain of coffee ports fairly certainly set out somewhere back in time with the purpose of mimicking the Starbucks phenomenon. They did fairly well for quite some time, but like the tin man of Oz, they lacked one thing. They lacked heart. They have the outside look down fairly well. But it’s a bit like an oak dining set. When you scratch beneath the surface, you really can see whether you have the real thing or a laminated veneer. It’s catching up to them I’m afraid. At some time, the faithful who have been so secure will realize that the heart is really a cheap imitation and the atmosphere that they thought they were paying for has disappeared. And then they’ll be off, once again in search of coffee truth.
As a pastoral artist, I can’t resist the parallel here between coffee and spiritual satisfaction. Everywhere I turn I am confronted with a deep spiritual longing. In fact at this very moment I’m listening to Sting lamenting through my headphones about hollowness and want. People are created with a longing as old as creation itself. In the quest to fill that which can only be filled by the Creator himself, we have established a very impressive and attractive lineup of imposters. Even the Church can be guilty of being an imposter. Many fall for that one. The Church, like sex, drugs, and rock and roll (Ok maybe not rock and roll) can promise much and deliver little or nothing at all. Many promises of a life fulfilled, but only Jesus can deliver the real experience. Say what you like pro or con regarding Starbucks. You may love them, hate them, ignore them, but there is nothing quite like them. Say what you like pro or con regarding Jesus. You may love Him, hate Him, ignore Him, but there is nothing like Him…and you don’t need five bucks for the experience.

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