groupon nation

April 5th, 2011

Your writing will not save you. Managing to be published will not save you. Don’t be deluded. – Joyce Carol Oates

Every morning when I click on my email and see the daily offer from Groupon, I feel a little twinge. I may or may not read it. I may or may not know the business. But I definitely will not use it. I am heartsick over all the businesses that will not be saved by Groupon.

Your couponing will not save you.

This post is not about the relative merits or demerits of social couponing. Yes, I understand it is the latest big thing. It is the big thing that reminds me a lot of the last big thing. We have a remarkable capacity in this nation to make each other poor – and call it the next big thing. We have a remarkable capacity to demean and devalue each other, and degrade the decent work we all do. We might even call it progress. To want something for nothing, to take more and pay less, to come out ahead, as if we can stand taller on the cumulative loss from our cheap, daily deal making.

Don’t be deluded.

This treatise may be inspired by the bloodthirsty union-busting that passes as budget balancing in our statehouses, or the arrogant idiocy of the other side in Congress. Or it may have something to do with our income tax returns. My husband finished them last weekend, and in a sign of his unshakable goodness, he did not report that my net income last year had inched valiantly up, to the round number that is the very lowest of the low five-figures. He has, over these 16 years, made what amounts to a guaranteed, year-over-year, skyrocketing investment in my poverty.

Your writing will not save you.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not some big-timer. I am not like, say, Joyce Carol Oates, the Pulitzer Prize winner, author of bestselling books too numerous to count, collector of accolades too voluminous to mention, including several rumored Nobel Prizes, whose recent memoir from the abyss of her widowhood included the remarkable passage I quote above.

Managing to get anything will not save you.

At this point in my so-called life I feel like I did about a half-second after I got married, when I had a startling realization. Someone has to be the wife! And then a half-second after I gave birth: Someone has to be the mother! And now: Someone has to be the priest! Each of these revelations occurred after I’d made an avowed commitment to do something that I had no earthly idea how to do. That’s the way vows work: forever after, or they don’t work at all.

I’m going to have to be the priest. I’m going to have to want less, and take less, and give more, and be poor, except it doesn’t really feel that way, because I’m turning into a priest the way I turned into the wife and mother, not by managing it one way or the other, but just by being me.

So let me pronounce and testify:
I don’t need a coupon, and I will not use one.
I don’t need much from the market, but I need there to be a market.
I don’t need much food, but I need there to be food.
I don’t need much from writing, but I need there to be writers, readers, books, agents, editors, publishers, booksellers, libraries and yes, even Amazon will do.
I don’t need much from government, but I need there to be a government, and streets and safety and schools and weather reports and laws and common interest and public good.
I don’t need much, so you can take what you need.
I don’t need anything of yours.
I need you.
You’re so worth it.

To seal this vow, I have an offer you can’t refuse! Leave a comment and I will choose a winner to receive a brand-new copy of Hand Wash Cold, autographed by the impoverished author, with a crease on one back corner. Like all sellers, I have to buy my books from the publisher, and this one came with something extra so that I can’t, in good faith, sell it. (Good faith is how priests do things.) It is still worth the money you won’t have to pay. Winner drawn after my vacation ends next Saturday, April 16. Good luck and thank you from the bottom of my pocket.

Edited to add: The winner of this book is commenter #12, Rachael

photo © seaofclouds

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  1. I so appreciate this. While we struggle to make ends meet, I still can’t help but feel that we only make things worse by wanting more, more, more, cheaper, cheaper, cheaper.

    Comment by heather — April 7, 2011 @ 6:17 am

  2. A perfect piece as I practice emptiness meditations. My quiet garden retreat has been replaced by a constant buzz of commuters. I find a sense of peace with some of the homeless who live at the beach that we share. Its an interesting new perspective and practice.
    I miss seeing you shine Karen.

    Comment by blue — April 7, 2011 @ 7:56 am

  3. @Blue- come see me at the Hazy Moon. It’s quite nearly in your ‘hood!

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — April 7, 2011 @ 9:50 am

  4. This is a beautiful post. Hand Wash Cold is one of my favorite books, and my daughter has my copy at the moment. Thank you sharing!

    Comment by Wylie — April 7, 2011 @ 8:51 am

  5. We all need to read this and absorb it. Scaling down, giving away instead of buying more, my own life is filling up with this. But a copy of your book, well – that I would be happy to accumulate.

    Comment by Kim — April 7, 2011 @ 10:35 am

  6. I found you because Kim posted about your wisdom on FB. Truly profound, you speak what I think, especially about what we need there to be vs. the things that we want there to be…our needs are so very different from our wants.

    Comment by Sherry Smyth — April 7, 2011 @ 10:46 am

  7. Hi Karen,

    I’m reading Mama Zen right now & I love it! Thank you for sharing your insightful and inspiring thoughts with the world!



    Comment by Mindy Scime — April 7, 2011 @ 3:05 pm

  8. This touched me. I am a teacher in Wisconsin and have been affected by the union busting, protesting, and so on that has gone on for months. But at one point I stopped the obsessing and said, I have enough. Looking at the suffering in Haiti and Japan I know that I have more than enough.

    Comment by Sharon — April 7, 2011 @ 3:51 pm

  9. This post was so well written – bravo! While I have purchased a few Groupon and coupons, it is always with a nagging feeling (along with a large dose of guilt) that I am contributing to the re-shaping of how America spends. I know that it hurts the little guy and I am hoping that America realizes that discounting everything from merchandise, entertainment, experience, travel, educational activities and more only creates on-line Monopolies that leave no competition and no choices as to where and how we shop.

    Comment by Mimi Schector — April 7, 2011 @ 5:10 pm

  10. Karen: I have a lovely copy of Hand Wash Cold, but would love to have an autographed copy. I get so much out of reading your posts! If you send it to me, I will, with gratitude, pass on the copy I have to someone I think would enjoy it. Thanks for much for being brave enough to be you consistently!

    Comment by Karen Marie — April 7, 2011 @ 5:21 pm

  11. Love the blog dharma.
    Thanks, as always,

    Comment by 6512 and growing — April 10, 2011 @ 6:19 pm

  12. What a generous offer! I’m in the midst of re-reading Hand Wash Cold right now. I bought a copy when it first came out and then gave it to a friend who needed to read it. I have another friend who needs a copy too…

    Comment by Audra — April 11, 2011 @ 1:58 am

  13. I’m a little sheepish to admit that I’d love a copy of your book for nothing. So, let’s make a trade. If I win a copy, I’ll make you a lovely piece of art. You can even suggest size, colors, mood, etc. And you can sell it. Or you can keep it. Good luck!

    Comment by char — April 11, 2011 @ 3:09 pm

  14. Strangely, the more I give away the richer I feel. Nice post. Thanks.

    Comment by Paul Brennan — April 12, 2011 @ 4:33 am

  15. Amen, and thanks for being the priest. =]

    Comment by Cynthia Carlson — April 13, 2011 @ 8:55 am

  16. I love comment #1. Sweet. I am just discovering you. But I think I’ve already won something in finding you. I’d love to have and read your book. If I win it, I’ll make notes in it and pass it on to the next soul that needs it….and so on.

    Comment by Lynn Dirk — April 14, 2011 @ 6:47 am

  17. this just sank into my soul so beautifully. sometimes “just enough” is plenty. and, oh – i don’t need to be in the drawing – i already have your book. (and love it!)

    Comment by linda — April 14, 2011 @ 8:02 am

  18. Groupon Nation hits the spot for me, and condenses the disconnection, discontent, and chaos of our “modern” American society. My own vow of poverty happened about a year ago in the midst of what I thought at the tine was a valiant choice to live in a ghetto. I’ve since learned impoverishment is a state of mind, not always a location. Your writing is exquisite. Thank you for posting it.

    Comment by Leslie — April 24, 2011 @ 7:46 am

  19. Well put, exactly, perfect. I don’t need but I love that you are there. Your beautiful words ooze with great wisdom. Grateful for your being, that’s wat I am.


    Comment by Miro — December 13, 2011 @ 1:40 pm

  20. Ah and I forgot to add, Priceless

    Comment by Miro — December 13, 2011 @ 1:42 pm

  21. Maezen, your heart shines so clearly through everything you write (in my little experience)…. so clearly that I discover my heart, and know in my bones that all these many hearts responding to your post are entwined. That’s the gift. The way writing and sharing (even buying and selling, in person, without scamming) build cairns on our paths, showing us the way back to the connectedness always here. I love getting to read all the responses to your post. My library has Hand Wash Cold, so I don’t need a copy. But I would love for you to crease the back cover of my copy of Momma Zen!

    Comment by Lailah Shima — March 7, 2014 @ 9:09 am

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