The Soup Plantation Effect

10 11 2010

The other week on a date night, Jenna and I went to the Soup Plantation for a healthy dinner. It all started innocently enough. First stop, the green stuff: varieties of lettuce (iceberg, romaine, spinach, etc.); then the rainbow coalition of vegetables: tomatoes (red), peppercorn (yellow), broccoli (green), cauliflower (white), kidney beans (rust), onions (purple), and peppers (orange); and finally, the innocuous little toppings: raisins, Chinese noodles, croutons… our hearts and cholesterol levels never felt so good.

Then things started going south.

The dressings were next: Thousand Island, Ranch, Bleu Cheese, a few balsamic concoctions, and a long, thin jar of olive oil that looked like it hadn’t been touched in months. Then came the various mayonnaise-laden concoctions: tuna salad, macaroni salad, potato salad, chicken salad, carrot and raisin salad, fake crab salad…

(…arteries begin to constrict…)

Then it was on to the breads. Oh, the breads! French bread and sourdough and black wheat, whole-nut, cracked-seed, 100% organic bread, and cheese bread, and Matzo bread and Ezekiel bread and manna from heaven and… and…

(…heart murmurs barely detectable…)

…suddenly there we were, standing at the far end of the salad bar some 2500 calories later staring at the check-out girl. We paid, put our tails between our legs, and turned to make our way towards a table.

Oh… but not so fast… not, that is, before we had to (mind you, had to) walk past/through/by and around:

~ five different cream-based soups + a pot of chili ~

~ four different kinds of steaming hot, thick-crust pizza ~

~ the potato bar with every conceivable topping you can imagine ~

~ (another bread bar?!?) ~

~ an industrial size container of mac & cheese ~

~ the soda machine (with one diet option) ~

~ and the coup de grace: a piping hot, deep dish, deeply sinful chocolate volcano-qua-brownie with ~ oh, that’s right ~ the soft serve yogurt/ice cream topping bar but a hair’s breadth away.

(…hearts and cholesterol levels in triage…)

We stumbled to our table in a state of mild existential despair. On the way, I managed to glance at the tables around me. I was stupefied. When we sat down with our few pounds of food, I leaned in and whispered to Jen in a state of panic, “Did you see everyone’s plate? This is a trap! Everyone thinks they’re being healthy by coming here, but we all went through the salad bar like it was a speed bump on the way to nirvana! Everyone’s plate looks like ours!” (which was to say, ridiculously indulgent).

And we thought this was going to be a healthy dinner.

Which is exactly what the wicked geniuses behind the SP operation want you to think. Fact is, you’re doomed if you go to there with the idea of being healthy, since you must go through the valley of the shadow of death in order to reach your table, and from the looks of it that night, precious few make it out unscathed.

So what does this have to do with anything? Turns out, the SP Effect is everywhere: in academia, in advertising, in the Church. And it’s in the world of technology. We were promised (remember this?) that technological advances would simplify our lives and give us more time to do the really important things like spending time with friends and family. It would free us up to live more exalted, more balanced lives, in other words. And to be sure, it has in many ways. I like digital phone pads and Tempur-pedic mattresses and computers and Tsunami warning centers. These are good things. But is technology really our salvation? What else has it wrought?

Among other things, the instant access world of the Internet, email, IM’s, tweets, SNS’s, blogs, instant video sharing, and the requisite GPS tracking apps on all of our insta-utopian devices like iPads, iPhones, and iPods, all of which will lead, I have no doubt, to an entire iUniverse where we’ll never actually have to ever talk to anyone, see anyone, listen to anyone, or God forbid, touch anyone. We’ve become disenchanted on our way to becoming disembodied.

iRobot anyone?

Do I overstate the case? Actually, I understate it. Take a gander at www.kurzweilai.net. Never heard of Trans-humanists before? Be enlightened.

Technology, via The SP Effect, promises something it invariably has no intention of delivering ~ or really ever could finally deliver ~ freedom and happiness. Ask yourself, do you have more time now, and as a result fill your days with more things that add richness and texture to your life? And does your life in general have a deeper sense of meaning and purpose and freedom now than it did 20 years ago? Or do you find (like I do) that life is more hectic, more harried, more frenetic, less purposeful and meaningful? Turns out I actually spend less time with friends face to face, not more; less time reading good books and taking walks, not more; less time with those I love, not more. In just about every way that matters, in fact, I feel less at peace and less free than I did twenty years ago. Not more.

The notion that technology will invariably contribute to the well-being of humanity, or that science will undoubtedly find an answer to all of our problems, is a ruse. Technology and science are only as good as the engineers and scientists behind them, which doesn’t exactly fill me with much hope since they, like the rest of us, are flawed creatures with not always the best intentions. Science is power, and power corrupts.

In other words, the Soup Plantation is definitely NOT the place to go if you want to eat healthy. And what about those Trans-humanists? Turns out they’re just the chocolate volcano brownie concoction at the end of the salad bar of our post-modern, disenchanted lives.

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