Skip to main content

Making Me Think

 Subway sandwich store, Sao Paolo, by YDLR
I'm almost ready to go back to the delightful days I spent in Minnesota and share with you the sights and insights of those days. My brain is being willful, though, and won't quite let me go there at the moment.

The famine half a world away still has my thoughts pinned down. The thoughts are ones that take some of my  self-created comfort away, even as they bring me a welcome kind of awakening.  I sent a donation to Unicef, and I feel very good about that. As I watched Rozanne Chorlton, Unicef representative in Somalia, I felt quite humbled. She has the face of the perfect mother or grandmother, benevolent and radiant. She stood among the masses of people, a tangerine colored scarf covering her head, and a bulletproof vest on her torso, telling the media how important it was to keep trying to reach even beyond the thousands of desperate people swarming around her in a refugee outpost.

I was humbled by the grief on the face of the father who had walked for four days to get food for his son and did not yet know if the food would be enough and in time enough to save his son's life.

These news reports are forcing me (I say forcing, because I don't really want to follow this line of self-questioning) to look at my 21st-century, industrialized-nation relationship to food.  A relationship heavily influenced (and distorted) by advertising and accessibility.  How easy it is for me to forget the wise words of naturalist Aldo Leopold, who wrote: "Heat does not come from the furnace, and breakfast does not come from the grocery store."

I wonder if I can become more "sober" about my own relationship with food. How insane is it that at 6 p.m. I can see a newscast about thousands of starving, dying children, then go to a supermarket 10 minutes from my house and walk down an entire aisle of nothing but "chips" or make a decision for dessert between Reese's Peanut Butter Cups or Justin's Organic Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups? This is a kind of juxtaposition that can only be described as schizophrenic.

So, my questions to myself are:  When I walk down those aisles of plenty, can I remember the children, not only in Somalia, but in my own country, who suffer from lack of food, who, in fact, may be dying from lack of sustenance?  Can I see and feel the blessing of the fresh fruit, vegetables, and safe meat that I can choose from, without resorting to thinking about what kind of food I am in the "mood" to eat? Can I keep my head clear when the idiocy of the Pepperidge Farm commercial airs, the one that proclaims that "Chocolate is good for the soul."?  On days when I am "in the mood for" something other than what is already in my cupboard, can I muster the discipline to eat what I already have without going out for that one thing I don't already have?

I make a small monthly donation to my local food bank and contribute to food drives, but that does not make my own food life "clean" or my food conscience "clear." The fact that I donate to causes to help with hunger does not qualify me to ever meet a famine victim and be able to hold my head high in their suffering presence. Perhaps that is why the news reports humble me so. I don't like to admit it, but my sheer luck in life has led me to be casual and cavalier about food, to forget my dependence on a host of factors and people, to see food exactly as Aldo Leopold advised me not to, thinking of my local supermarket as an ongoing fountain of comestibles (whose price increases are also ongoing).

Well, I have asked the questions now. Only time will tell how well I am able to live the answers.


Popular posts from this blog

Life without Television, Part 2

I began life without television with relief, which was consistent Monday through Friday. The first few weekends, though, felt awkward, anxious, lonely. When PBS has good programming on Saturday nights, it is extraordinarily good. Father Brown, Phryne Fisher, New Tricks... Extraordinary acting, high production values, and I fantasize about the pudgy, brilliant priest just perhaps having an innocent crush on one of his special parishioners, which would be moi. 

I called a friend one Sunday. "Maybe television helped with my anxiety more than I realized," I said. She told me about her aunt who, after her husband's death, kept the television on in his "man cave" 24/7. He has been gone years now. The television goes on, everlasting, in his absence. I don't blame her. Much of my frequent and prolonged television viewing began with grief.

After my sister died, I would watch almost anything, especially late at night when sleep eluded me. I even watched Convoy with …

Glad to Hear It

This past week, Larry Wilmore and company mentioned Rachel Dolezol again on The Nightly Show. I don't remember who made the comment, but either Wilmore or one of the panelists said, "Did Rachel Dolezol do anything bad? No, she really didn't. Why did we get so uptight about that?" I was glad to hear it. Three cheers for being human.

I looked briefly at what's on Google currently about her and the now much-discussed Shaun White. I intend not to enter any of that fray mentally or verbally. I still maintain that humanity trumps color. We have a long way to go until we can leave our "paint by numbers" mentality behind, but we've made progress. Good changes can come, even in the midst of chaos and controversy. Maybe White and Dolezal will help us see that eventually.

As long as I'm here and continuing on the subject of color, I think I'm not alone in the fact that I don't like being called "white." As for my background, it includes …

Whose day?

Years ago, I made some collages using pages from a desk calendar from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The image that leads this post is one. Inside the hearts and flowers is a picture from the MMA collection of  a Japanese screen made in the 16th century. It is titled Tagasode, which means Whose sleeves?  The title comes from a 10th-century poem:

The fragrance seems even more alluring than the hue, Whose sleeves have brushed past? Or would it be this plum tree blossoming here at home?
Iro yori mo ka koso awaredo omohoyure tagasode fureshi ado no ume zo mo
The word haunts: tagasode. Whose sleeves? The question floats in my mind like a cloud on a still day. The sleeves materialize in my mind's eye. I hear them move through hushed air. I can imagine, though not name, the scent of the person to whom those sleeves belong. It's not unlike smelling the scent of your infant's clothes, or holding the perfume bottle that belonged to your don't need to open it... you know tha…