Frequently I find myself writing about areas of logistics. Intriguingly enough, when I began this particular blog, and in my previous blog writing that had gone on for a decade or so (or more, if you count my early Essays On Modern Life going back to the mid-to-late 90’s), I did not have a particularly large interest in logistics. Or at least I was not familiar with the subject at all to the extent that I am now. For the most part, I do not see that people have a conscious appreciation of logistics, but rather have an implicit perspective about it and might even take it a bit for granted. I think it should be a subject, though, that we deal with openly, as our views on logistics have massive consequences when it comes to how we behave in life and how we view other people and the world in which we live in.
One logistical question is fundamental to our worldview, and that is our answer to the question: Do we live in a world of abundance or scarcity? This is a logistical question because it deals with resources. The question is, do we believe there are enough things to go around, enough food, enough love, enough attention, enough respect, enough honor, and so on and so forth. If we believe that we live in a world that is, at least potentially, one of abundance, then we will be motivated to be generous with our knowledge and with our resources, whether that is time or money or something else. To the extent that we believe we live in a world of scarcity, though, our behavior will be directed at hoarding and we will be led to have a hardness of heart towards those who are in need. It should be noted that to believe that we live in a world of abundance does not mean that we are enjoying this abundance, necessarily, or that the logistical systems of this world necessarily work perfectly. It is merely a belief that there is enough for all, and that the problem consists in motivating people to work for the abundance that exists as well as to create the systems that can bring that abundance to those who need or want it. Again, this is a question with moral consequences. To the extent that generosity of spirit is a moral quality, our belief in abundance as opposed to scarcity, even if that belief in abundance is simply a statement of our faith that God could open the storehouses of heaven to bless the world if He so chose, is itself a deeply moral question.
Depending on our beliefs about logistics, there can be a great deal of joy in logistics. Do we feel joy when books that we order arrive to us? I know I do. Do we feel joy if we go to a grocery store, like Trader Joe’s or something like that, and find an excellent half-bottle of German ice wine in stock? That’s certainly a pleasure I can deeply understand, even if I’m not much of a drinker. Do we smile when we pass a truck on the road, wondering what it is hauling, or when we see a UPS or FedEx truck or a postal service vehicle as we are driving about, wondering what sort of mail or packages others are receiving? These are all aspects of the joys of logistics. During my time with UPS I enjoyed delivering packages to the good people of Clackamas and Happy Valley even if the job was rough on my feet, as well as making the routes for drivers a bit more efficient. These are joys of logistics as well, of an intellectual kind but no less joyful for all that. To the extent that we have done a good job at logistics in our own lives, we can buy that which will bring us pleasure when we consume it, and also share from what we have with other people, and enjoy the experience of sharing our time and resources with others. And these need not be expensive pleasures, as one can enjoy a simple home-cooked meal and appreciate the skill it takes to turn simple ingredients into, say, a tasty peanut soup or pasta casserole or some tasty beef brisket or BBQ chicken.
Logistics is a central aspect of the sort of pleasures that are available to us. If we live on a remote desert island, alone and utterly isolated, we are responsible for any of the logistics that we enjoy. We must build our own shelter, till the earth for crops, hunt and fish for our protein, and seek to gather edible fruits and nuts and berries in the wilderness around us. Most of us are not so isolated, though. We can order books from Amazon or Abebooks, watch films or tv on Netflix or Hulu, take a drive to see friends, go to the mall or the grocery store or any other number of shops and purchase goods and services that have a long logistical train extending to many lands around the world. This pleasure in logistical chains that make us part of a cosmopolitan global elite are so familiar and so easy to recognize that they formed part of a song, “Fabulous,” from the soundtrack to High School Musical: “Iced tea imported from England, / Lifeguards imported from Spain, / Towels imported from Turkey, / Turkey imported from Maine .” When Disney movies are able to convey the importance and the joys of logistics, then they are sufficiently well known and accessible that many people can relate to the subject, even if they have never heard of the word logistics.
What is required to make our appreciation of logistical matter explicit rather than implicit? For one, we need to know that the material possessions of our lives, or that are required to do the services that we appreciate, require a great deal of effort in manufacturing, marketing, and shipping, frequently coming from places far removed from us. We are only able to enjoy this abundance and even luxury because of our ability to be connected with a great many other people whose labors and efforts make our own pleasure possible. We are a part of systems that are far larger than ourselves alone, extending across state and international boundaries, over oceans and railroads and roads, and involving a great deal of work. And this work is done in hope, with the people involved believing in a world of abundance where there is enough to ensure life and go beyond mere survival needs for ourselves and our own loved ones as well as for the world as a whole. Our own internal joy at being part of larger systems and processes allows us to bring joy to others through our own use of the resources that God has given us as stewards of His creation.