Scraping the Bottom of the Barrel

It’s late afternoon, and I’m digging through the pantry cupboards in a vain attempt to create order amongst the cans of soup, crackers, and bags of rice. It shocks me how much food I can accumulate and not eat, month after month, even years at a time, because that particular food item loses its appeal. I have a huge stock of dried goods with which I have become bored.

What does it say about our society when food becomes entertainment? What do we know about scraping the bottom of the barrel? What do we comprehend about making do?

I haven’t forgotten what it was like when I was a single mother with four children to feed. I knew how to work wonders with $20 and a week to go before the next cheque. I could make a pot of soup stretch, and do without a lot of things to ensure my children didn’t suffer.

Then, with greater prosperity came that settling into the comfort zone where I had more choices, where I could spend more money on food and clothing – and even afford some luxury items. Sometimes, though, it feels like a prison, having so much and taking on the responsibility to maintain a certain lifestyle.

Friends of mine went on a mission to the Philippines with their children. They were gone for 2 years. When they came back, they only lasted a few months before they left again, back to the Philippines. This time, for good. They couldn’t handle the amount of waste they see here, they told me. They said, “It’s like living in Disneyland.”

It makes me wonder what we’ve sacrificed in order to acquire all of this stuff, all of this excess food. Often, I think wistfully of shaving my head, donning the robes of a Buddhist nun and retiring to a life of meditation and karma yoga. What material goods would I really miss if I chose that life? Without all the distractions of getting and having, would my internal demons eat me up or could I survive their attacks to my psyche – that trial by fire of the unfettered, untamed mind – and emerge truly free?

The simplicity of that choice is very tempting…

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