Saturday, October 16, 2010

I'm hungry

I am a tall, slim, neurologically sensitive, introverted and yet physically active person. I am therefore hungry most of the time, and I love to cook.

It is lunch time and I have been sitting and designing this blog all morning, drinking tea and coffee. There are vegetables from a local CSA (community-supported agriculture) in my fridge, waiting for me to make a dressing to dip them in and eat them. Cut vegetables lose 50% of their nutritional value in the first hour after harvest, and though mine are still a lot fresher than any you can get from any store, they need to be eaten soon. For my two dogs (children of my dear wife Deb's previous marriage, and very dear to me themselves), it is also lunch time. It would be better if I took care of these things right now.

But I want to talk a bit about what hunger means.

Western civilization (particularly in the USA, which I know best by far) is characterized by a universal state of chronic dissatisfaction. We are generally very hungry people, despite the fact that we consume at least six times as much of everything as we could possibly need. It is no wonder: the circumstances of our existence in the early years of the 21st Century make satisfaction impossible most of the time. We hunger for sustenance, health, meaningful livelihood, objects, togetherness, solitude. In general, I think we hunger for change.

It is right that we should want change. Our present mode of being really sucks, when you look at it. And my criticism of our present economic, political and social arrangements is not that they make some people very fortunate and most people very unfortunate...nothing so populistically Marxist. Rather, my criticism of these things is that they make life fundamentally impossible for everyone, regardless of empty and meaningless definitions of fortune or misfortune. Life under the circumstances we have been choosing to set is simply unlivable.

To distract the hungry, "change" of a kind has been built into these circumstances. This is the equivalent of changing the font or background color of one's blog (but not the fact that blogs depend on technology powered by ecologically and socially destructive mining), changing from one laundry detergent to another (but not the fact that one does not know how to make soap and stop littering the planet with plastic bottles), changing from Republicans to Democrats (but not the fact that we have no democracy and no longer live in a republic), or changing from Coke to Pepsi (both essentially the same, both nearly as destructive in their manufacture as petroleum, both crap). The fact that "change" was the magic word used by the Obama campaign illustrates that our hunger has grown to such a magnitude that Power can no longer distract us from examining these circumstances: they are no longer untested "features of the landscape", to be accepted as inevitable. When Power is forced to use explicit language to describe what they have previously been feeding you implicitly, you are well on the way to truly real Change: a dismantling of the circumstances of your life which you once thought inevitable, and a total reconfiguration of the infrastructure of life itself.

The only trouble is that if you just let it happen instead of taking an active and intentional part, you will most likely not find the new circumstances comfortable. Indeed, they may not be able to support your survival. This may be the case even if you do take an active role. But the active have a chance of determining the circumstances, and therefore a chance at life; not merely survival, but living. But the passive? I'm sorry, no.

I have always been a particularly hungry person. Hungry and inquisitive regarding my hunger, I have never accepted circumstances with which I was dissatisfied; I have rarely even accepted the parameters of my "likes" and "dislikes" without question. At age 11, I experimented with foods of different textures and flavors in a fashion I can only describe as Tantric, putting my least favorite foods first on the "to eat" list at the dinner table and watching how that list changed, destroying my own concepts of liking or not liking different things that are all good anyway. At age 10 I was foraging for wild edible plants in the Berkshire Hills, deconstructing the boundaries between "food" and "weeds", and also the link between "needs" and "markets". At age 12 I was hunting small game with a bow and arrow, and learning (from my sometimes angry father) that what you shoot, you have to kill; what you kill, you have to clean, cook and eat. Otherwise, no supper! At age 15, I was already refusing to accept the social parameters I was given by high school teachers and guidance councillors, that "you'll have to deal with this horrible shit for the rest of your life, so you'd better just accept it, or you will be a failure". I have rarely failed to refuse bad food. I have rarely failed to accept good food, regardless of whether I thought I "liked" it. And because of this, I have found to my sometimes great satisfaction that I have rarely failed in general.

Follow your own hunger, rather than hungers you are given to want. Cook (and if possible, grow) your own food. Learn to identify the edible and poisonous circumstances of your life, choose the edible, and spread their seeds; there is no need to weed out the poisonous, for well-nurtured edibles will out-compete them (I never "quit" smoking; I have simply not smoked in two years). Accept the bitter along with the sweet, for it quickens the blood and gets you ready for a new spring after a long winter.

Me? I'm a-go make some tzaziki and some sweet brown rice. Bon appetit!

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