starbucks is not the coffee. That is not its significance. It is the last bastion of something that we have been losing to greedy realtors and mentally-odd (at least) city planners and others who create cities. Starbucks is a social reality that is important enough to render even silly seasonal promotions tolerable. Reality has two general meanings. It is our reality. And it is beauty and truth and all the good things we should be aiming for -- heaven in a word. Any place where people can sit and not be condemned is heavenly.

The coffee at Starbucks is great for mixing with milder brews, but people do not go there or to Panera or Au Bon Pain just for what they sell.

They go there to sit down in solitude or with one or two others and do what people do when they are having conscious time -- think, muse, relax and exist without being murdered by society with its lethal elements on full view.

Our social fabric examined

There is a lot of garbage being written these days about the big bad Internet. To read the stuff, you would think we could make it a universal scapegoat for everything wrong with us and the world. But I will disabuse you of that superficial notion. A computer can be turned off or on, like a TV. It involves a choice that is free if you happen to believe that it is us who choose and not just us as slaves of our brains.

We cannot turn off the highways on which we commute.

We cannot zap the houses for which we pay. And those who run cities are happy to let the homeless sleep wherever they can find a space but they are not into providing amenities for human beings who can still afford not to be homeless. We are captives of corporations and transportation systems and other elements of a sort of demonic infrastructure.

Grinning and bearing it

The more wealthy you are, the more you grin and bear until finally none of what the least (a growing group) go through has any impact on them. They do not go on cruises where they can contract foodborne diseases. They do not fly coach where an argument can leave you on an airstrip in Dubai.

They are part of the heavenly elect on earth and all is well.

The bind we are in

Starbucks is filled with wonderful souls of every race and persuasion. They cogitate in the company of their computers and with companions. At Panera and it's soon to be partner Au Bon Pain, the same sort of drill is possible. The common denominator is no one bothers you. This is as close to Paris cafes as we can get. And the sad thing is that most of these folk live in the society I have described and most will be done in by it.

When you look at our effort to create an island for humanity, look also at the reification that is going on everywhere else.