Brainwashed by a bitten apple

Bo Gemmell

I pass the same tree while walking south past Bowman Hall on the esplanade every day. This magnificent tree has a short, fat trunk and branches that spread up and across the sky. As much as I describe it, I still can’t even say its species.

The sad truth is that I can recognize hundreds – perhaps thousands – of brand images, but I can only name a handful of naturally occurring plant and fungi.

Talk about disheartening. I’m so disconnected with the natural world that I can count the number of flora I know on my appendages. Hell, and two of those are actually outlawed in this state.

The Nike swoosh, NBC’s peacock, the Nautica sailboat and the Anheuser Busch emblem on cans of Natural Light. You can see these images in your head just by reading the previous sentence, and that’s only a few brands starting with the letter “N.” But could you identify the flora if you were lost in a forest?

Sure, I recognize a peanut when I see the Planter’s peanut guy dressed up in his stupid top hat, cane and monocle, but I couldn’t recognize a peanut plant if it were growing right in front of me.

We all know Apple’s trendy logo. Naturally they chose a bitten apple to symbolize their overpriced and overpraised computers and MP3 players, but how many of us could distinguish an apple tree that wasn’t in its fruiting stage? Very few, I’m sure.

The same goes for a fruiting grape vine. I’d be able to pick the Sun-Maid raisin girl out of a police lineup any day of the week, but I doubt I’d be able to tell a fruitless grapevine from a vigorous weed.

The cheap bottle of Merlot I bought at the CVS on Water Street has a leaf on the label. I know – or assume – this is an oak leaf only because the winery’s name is Oak Creek. If it were named anything else, I’d be culls.

It seems that I’m even conditioned with physical reactions when I see some brand logos. The curved M representing McDonald’s makes me nauseous, and the Morton’s Salt girl makes me worry about my sodium intake. The overlapping red and yellow circles of Mastercard brings feelings of relief that I don’t have any credit card debt, but seeing the Visa logo constantly reminds me of my low checking account balance.

So why does this matter? Well, I don’t know, maybe it doesn’t; the fact is that I – and probably most of you – are so caught up in things which our species created that we don’t even recognize the real world that we were brought into. Maybe there’s more to life than mass-produced peanuts, overpriced computers and crappy wines.

Maybe focusing on the flora we share the planet with is more important than the moneymaking brands we’re so connected to.

Bo Gemmell is a junior magazine journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].