The mystery outcome of Mr. Mystery’s contributions

At a recent meeting of the Sharon Springs Thanatopsis Pleasure and Literary Club (we’re Dorothy Park

At a recent meeting of the Sharon Springs Thanatopsis Pleasure and Literary Club (we’re Dorothy Parker fans), a member gave a presentation titled “Man of Mystery.”

We were to guess who this person was, and were told that he affects our lives every single day in so many ways that we have no idea how much or how closely. This piqued our interest, of course, and what we heard startled us.

Mr. Mystery makes products and services for just about every industry we buy from or use, including Georgia-Pacific copy paper, Brawny and Sparkle paper towels, Angel Soft and Quilted Northern toilet paper, Vanity Fair, Mardi Gras and Dixie Cup table products, cellulose for diapers and other absorbent products, baby wipes, cleaning supplies, Kraft paper bags for pet food, fertilizer and groceries, tablecloths, and their dispensers in offices, schools, healthcare, manufacturing and food service locations.

He makes asphalt, chemicals, plastics, minerals and fibers we use every day. His cattle ranches provide beef for our tables. His refineries make petrochemicals, ethanol, biodiesel and lubricants. His electronic and fiber optic systems for mobile devices, consumer electronics, automotive, telecommunications, industrial, medical, military and aerospace run almost every aspect of our economy.

Add in air fresheners, soaps, Lycra products and Stainmaster carpets, and his presence is a veritable cocoon around our lives.

He is the fourth richest person in America, the wealthiest in New York City, the ninth wealthiest person in the world, and he runs the second largest private company in the U.S., after Cargill, employing more than 100,000 people.

Mr. Mystery serves on the boards of Aspen Institute, WGBH, MIT, Smithsonian Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, American Ballet Theatre, Lincoln Center, Deerfield Academy, American Museum of Natural History, and medical centers like the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and New York Presbyterian Hospital. His large gifts to Lincoln Center and The Natural History Museum have put his name on major buildings and wings.

By now, most of us knew who Mr. Mystery was, even without his political resumé. He ran for vice president in 1980, became a Republican when his previous party wanted to abolish all income taxes, and is outspoken about eliminating the Federal Election Commission, all limits on campaign spending, the Affordable Care Act, Dodd-Frank, Consumer Protection agencies, and he thinks global warming is good since it will free up more land for food production.

Personally, he was a basketball star at MIT, has a master’s degree in chemical engineering from there, an honorary doctorate from Cambridge College, and was born the same year I was. Looking at his accomplishments, I was reminded of the old quote, “When Mozart was my age, he’d been dead for forty years.” Makes you stop and think.

What’s a cocoon?

As soon as we had guessed Mr. Mystery’s name, the conversation turned to cocoons. In nature, a cocoon is an incubator, a place of protection and transformation into something beautiful, like butterflies. It can also be regarded as a prison, a shroud, mummy wrappings.

The enwrapping of our day-to-day lives by Mr. Mystery’s products is a stark fact that has made him very rich and powerful. But what will emerge from all this?

We hope for the butterfly, but know well that major changes will have to take place before that happens. We’ll just have to wait and see if things really do go better.

Karen Cookson of Sharon Springs is a regular contributor to the Sunday Gazette Opinion page.

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