Spiritual Adventures in the Workplace

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Pet Milk Lesson 5


Today I’ll conclude my brief history of the Pet Milk Company.  The book I’ve been referencing (A Portrait of Progress, by Martin L. Bell) was published in 1962, and it was clear by the closing pages that the company was in trouble.  The author’s historical paradigm didn’t help.  Throughout the book he used the human life cycle as an analogy.  He described the company in its infancy, adolescence, and adulthood.  By the final pages, there was only one thing left for the Pet Milk Company to do: expire.  Ironically, the evaporated milk did not.

The death of the company was a long, detailed process, but it comes down to this: many of its products continued on, but were taken over by other companies.  The canned milk is now sold by J.M. Smucker, the dairy products belong to Dean Foods, and the Pet-Ritz pie crusts are part of Pillsbury’s lineup.  The company that started it all is gone.

Pet Milk Lesson 5: Even when a corporate venture comes to an end, its mission and purpose may be taken up by other corporate ventures.

I don’t mean to say that it all ends up for the best.  When a company goes under, it can have a devastating effect on the workers involved, and even on their communities.  Sometimes they can’t recover, either economically or emotionally.  But it’s often the case that fragments of those companies live on in other forms, under new management.

Pet Milk is an interesting example.  The Pet Milk website offers a seamless historical presentation, as if the company has survived after all.  You may at first think that I have told you in error.  But scroll to the bottom of the page and see whose copyright is on it, and then it will make more sense.  There’s something romantic about tracing the roots of a product back to the 1800s, even if the corporation that started it all no longer exists.

I appreciate your indulgence over the past several posts.  You’ve probably been wondering where I’m going with all this.  Actually, I will use “Pet Milk Lessons 1-5” again and again in the weeks and months ahead, because those general principles will help us understand a lot about the complex social system in which we live.  And if we want to dig deeper with the question, “What is God doing in our lives when we’re engaged in secular work?” it’s time for us to take another look at the structure of our society.  These “Pet Milk Lessons” are nice generalizations that will guide us as we do so.


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