Think Truly Differently
By Rev. Catie Scudera, Published on June 1, 2017
When we chose “Thinking Differently” as June’s ministry theme, I should have known the most common response I’d hear would be, “Oh, like Apple!”
“Think Different” was a marketing slogan for Apple Computers beginning in the late 1990’s, a cheeky response to their main competitor IBM’s motto, “THINK.” In television commercials and print ads, the company would place their logo next to the (grammatically improper) words, “Think Different,” over the image of a ground-breaking twentieth-century figure — Mahatma Gandhi, Martha Graham, Jim Henson, Martin Luther King, Jr., Pablo Picasso, Jackie Robinson, Jane Goodall, Cesar Chavez, even Unitarian architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
Reminded of that ad campaign now, I find it incredibly strange that Chavez, Graham, Robinson, or King’s images were used to promote a computer brand. None of the people depicted in the “Think Different” campaign had anything to do with technology; what would Gandhi think about his image being used in this way? Yet, regardless, so many of us still associate “thinking differently” — as Picasso did with art, as Goodall did with research, as Wright did with architecture — with Apple products. The campaign worked!
The slogan, of course, is disingenuous. Neither Apple nor IBM is interested in having us think much at all. These companies want us to buy their products and, ideally, begin to self-identify with their brands: that if you’re a person who “thinks different,” then a Mac is for you! I realize with some uneasiness that Apple has become part of my identity. I’ve been an Apple “user” for as long as there have been personal computers. I remember when the old Mac Classic II appeared in our family’s home, discarded from my father’s office. We used floppy discs to play silly games and to test out “word processing,” printing out school assignments and birthday cards on a printer with continuous form paper. I’ve never owned a computer that wasn’t an Apple. And, today, I write this article on a Mac laptop; I preach from an iPad; I use an iPhone; and, we watch television and movies at home through an Apple TV… The campaign worked!
In light of this successful slogan we have inadvertently echoed, I want to clarify that at First Parish in Needham, when we consider “thinking differently” we aren’t promoting a particular company nor are we disingenuous in using the phrase. As members of a pluralistic and openhearted faith, we want to examine our ethics, build bridges to our neighbors, and live out our faith through action and care for our world. The Fifth Source of Unitarian Universalist spiritual inspiration is the body of “humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit.” Brand loyalty and consumerism are among the “idolatries of mind” that pull our focus away from our ethical and spiritual development. Let us not be distracted or duped by capitalist interests as we continue on our journeys toward spiritual truth. Let’s “think differently” by prioritizing ethical living, empathizing and learning from all living beings, and caring for our Earth.