Jung, the Swiss psychoanalyst, one place says something about his German neighbours, that they want you to love them because they sell you something, in a shop or wherever.
It’s a comment not untypical for Jung, he is kind of outspoken in an easy way even in his scientific works, says things in passing, which makes him fun to read.
You don’t have to take all these comments at face value, and maybe sometimes I misunderstand them, but quite often I think we’re given glimpses into his mind or his times which cross the borders between professional and private life. Actually that border is not always very important when you read his things, because he frequently expresses opinions, not only what he believes to be facts.
He grew up in the countryside, I think, very close to the German border.
Anyway, he is a fun an interesting read. And this little side comment has probably not much to do with Jung.
But I still don’t quite get this little comment. Why shouldn’t you be happy if you find something in a shop that you actually like or need? And content that someone – the shop owner or an employee – found it for you?
I have always liked being in shops, a thing that of course came out of hanging on to the hand of Mum when I was a kid, on her expeditions to different specialists in food, books or something else she had in mind that day.
One very special experience, which was actually repelling and strange, was a visit to the local dairy, milk shop if you like, in Asker, where we lived, it positively smelled of many years of handling milk products. The sour smell was intense, but at the same time there was no feeling of uncleanness, just something you couldn’t escape when being there, and which obviously wouldn’t go away, no matter how much and how often you washed.
A little like an old cutting board for fish.
Anyway, for me, what went on in these shops where I hung on to my mother’s hand, was actually friendliness, a nice exchange of energy, you could say with a modern expression. No doubt politeness was a huge part of it, my mother must have been full of it. I think privately she was very unsure, but in a setting like this, politeness and knowing how to behave “in public” worked perfectly.
And don’t you believe that this kind of conversations needs to be superficial or nonsense, it can be as real as anything. Of course, the degree of acquaintance is not necessarily very close or very hot, but hey, anything may happen and even when nothing special happens, you can still leave the shop with a feeling of having received…well, friendliness, of many different kinds.
It’s especially rewarding to meet nerds of your own kind, people who actually understand your mania and craving for strange recordings, Middle East sweets or books that no one else have heard about.
I spent quite a few years in a town even smaller than Oslo, Tromsø, that is, where I sometimes knew shopkeepers even privately, and that was of course even better than just anonymous small talk.
Later in life (later than childhood) I have understood that running a shop can be a little problematic because you always have to smile and treat everyone good. Sometimes the attitude goes into to your private life, and some end up to be more private than is actually good for them. They
are too used to hiding all their troublesome sides, in order to please
customers. I think it can be a culture. Insiders can tell.
I’ve tried my hand a little in selling things myself, and find it sometimes very much socially rewarding, but I realise that you may run into problems because you live off people’s good will, both towards your products and yourself.
But as a customer, I am usually happy to find what I look for and even have the possibility of a small exchange of general benevolence towards each other or even the world. I can be difficult to please, but I am easily put on fire by people.
And in this moment I don’t care who the salesman or -woman votes for or whether she is cheating on her husband or not. I’m even uninterested in his habits when it comes to paying taxes. Believe it or not.
I am actually just happy to look into a friendly face and get a smile back.
I don’t even mind that one reason for it is that I have the money to buy his stuff, right then. I am certainly not rich, but one of the reasons for this is that I think too little about money.
If you’re grumpy, you could well say that the whole thing is a little unfair towards those who don’t have that money in that moment, to buy things, I mean, but I have done things for them too, and sometimes you need to take what you get.
You don’t have to let go of any opinions on an unjust society or anything else, just accept the fact that someone is actually smiling to you.
I know we consume too much, but we won’t stop consuming something, and why not have some fun while doing it?
I have no idea what relevance this has to the Germans or German culture. Probably not much.
But I frequently enjoy this kind of side comments while reading more skilful stuff.
Aristotle has a similar thing, in his De anima, which is the Latin title, where he basically speaks about all things’ inner nature.
Suddenly, in the middle of a philosophical discussion, he wonders what is that smallish stuff which you can see when the sun comes into the window, the little flakes which dance around in the air?
It’s a while ago that I read it, and it’s all cited from memory, but as I remember it, it was pretty obvious that he actually didn’t know that these things are actually dust.
I love thinking and reading, philosophy as much as anything else, but things like this are bonus stuff, they make me laugh.
It makes me think it’s time for a toast, or inviting another friend to the party.
Maybe he has an even better story to tell.