My Perfect Mall

Recently, my friend Garrick and I came up with the following thought exercise: If you were to design the perfect shopping mall, what types of stores would it have? The rules are simple. It does not have to be existing brands or even what one would find in the modern American mall — just types of stores. To keep it easy we limited ourselves to ten.

Most malls have become bland wastelands of fast fashions targeted towards the lowest common denominator. Beige behemoths located, usually, “out there somewhere” and easily accessible only by those with cars. Yet, the first earliest shopping malls were designed to be a destination centerpiece for the urban family around which walkable self-sustaining communities would form. That was what Victor Gruen envisioned when inventing them.

We thought the exercise would, perhaps, reveal some things about what we like and are interested in that we had not considered before. We also thought that it would expand the idea of what a shopping mall could be.

Here’s mine.

  1. A men’s clothing store that carries well made, affordable, timeless, basics. Clothes that last long, wear well, and never go out of style.
  2. A fine pen and stationery store, specializing in imported brands/items (Japan, Germany, etc.) with some vintage items too.
  3. A travel store specializing in light packing clothing and gear.
  4. A really, really, good independent book store with an excellent children’s section, a mix of universally revered classics and great new releases, an expansive selection of magazines and literary journals from all over the world, and a knowledgable staff who provide great recommendations.
  5. A really good cooking store that sells seriously good supplies for the home chef.
  6. A store that sells nice bags of all different shapes, sizes, materials, and uses.
  7. A fitness center with a nice indoor running track, good modern exercise equipment, and plenty of yoga and meditation class offerings.
  8. A museum with a nice mix of classic and contemporary art. There is a price attached to every painting — so you could theoretically buy anything assuming you have the money to do so.
  9. A great hat store. From formal to casual and everything in between. Some good vintage stock as well.
  10. A nice gift store with unique, interesting, useful, and fun items for all ages. The kind of place that always has that “just what I’m looking for” gift for family or friends.

There you have it. I suppose I’m not surprised by any of these. Most that know me well probably would not be either. Still, it was fun to imagine and see what sorts of things are important to me. Quality is a big one — a theme that pops up over and over again. Also interesting is what is not in my mall. One may notice there is not an Apple Store or any modern technology store in there. I’m not against those things, obviously. They just should be in someone else’s mall, not mine.

I find this a lot of fun to think about and have left room on the page I listed these in case I want to expand my malls offerings to more than ten.

Right Livelihood

Right Livelihood is the fifth precept in the Buddhist Noble Eightfold Path. I have found this one the most difficult for me to find a way to apply to my online interactions and communications (and, thus, write about).

The precept is meant to speak to the way we make income or take on tasks. It discourages making any profit from those businesses or dealings which harm others, ourselves, or otherwise do not respect life. In the Buddha’s time, this spoke to things such as drug dealing, weapon manufacturing or sales, slavery, butchery, and even fortune telling. While I’m sure there are people using social media tools like Twitter and Facebook to help facilitate such transactions, I have not had any first hand experience with such. I certainly do not traffic in any of these nor do I ever plan to. Therefore, it would be easy for me to call this one "done" and move along.

But, I don’t think any of us should get off so easily when navigating the Eightfold Path. Each precept is meant as a prompt for our deeper consideration. Therefore, I feel compelled to seek any way my business dealings might be falling short of my greater spiritual goals. In a way, to borrow the popular Christian meme, I find myself asking "What would the Buddha do?".

Is the price of my products a fair one on both sides of the transaction? Am I paying too much attention to impermanent metrics like sales, downloads, or followers? Am I advertising my products and services in a way that is boastful, deceptive, or insensitive? All of these could just as easily fall under and be addressed by the concepts within Right Livelihood.

Right livelihood also stresses that we do not take our work for granted. That all of our actions, especially our daily tasks, are the result of all that came before and simply a contribution to a greater whole. That pride and hubris in our success is simply a recipe for suffering when change in such inevitably occurs so we should not dwell on it. So, to use social media to constantly promote our good work and congratulate ourselves on our own success simply makes this insecurity apparent to the world. Work that is consistently good speaks for itself.

I use the concept of Right Livelihood to remind me to keep my focus on doing work that contributes to the greater good, that is meaningful and helpful to those that choose to purchase my products and services, to humbly realize that any failures or successes will be fleeting, and that the most mindful path is to simply continue to do good work.

As the old Zen proverb says, "Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.

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