Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Out To Dinner

We Alone, by Alice Walker

We alone can devalue gold
by not caring
if it falls or rises
in the marketplace.
Wherever there is gold
there is a chain, you know,
and if your chain
is gold
so much the worse
for you.

Feathers, shells
and sea-shaped stones
are all as rare.

This could be our revolution:
to love what is plentiful
as much as
what's scarce.

There is a film my Spouse and I watch often. 'The Man Without a Past' is a film that, in fact, has done much to encourage us to live the simpler life we are striving for every day.
The story revolves around a group of impoverished people who live in freight containers on the waterfront in Helsinki. They do not, for all intents and purposes, exist. These people have been cast to the side of a society which does not want or need them.
They scarcely know where their next meals will come from. They have absolutely nothing of material value.
When the main character turns up with no recollection of his name or life, these people feed him what little they have and they take care of him.
The man of the 'house' in one scene stares for a long time at the stranger. He sums up the situation and says, "it's Friday. Let's go out for dinner."
And here the audience is left awfully confused and struggling, most likely, to make sense of those words. One wonders at this scene of two men planning to go out for a meal, and how on earth they would afford such a luxury.
The next moment, however, shows the two men better dressed than in previous scenes.
We see that they are lining up with bowl and spoon in their hands. They are at a soup kitchen and they are partaking of the free meal handed out to the homeless.
This, then, is a film that challenges our perception of the phrases 'luxury', 'entertainment' and 'dining out.' It is one of the more profound statements the film makes. Because it is too easy to forget there really are people that cannot conceive of 'saving' to go to a restaurant no matter how much they aspire to. It will never happen in their lifetime.
Think about it: did they, or did they not, 'go out to dinner'? I believe they did. All they had to do was see it from another angle which, when given their circumstances, is not so difficult.
The point is simply that we need to be more imaginative and industrious about how to get by and far less demanding.
We think that we cannot live without this or that: it simply is not so. It is only that we have forgotten how to do without our frills, to the point where we do not even consider them frills anymore. Shining new items, and brand-name products are as much a part of our existence now as breathing in and out.
At this time my Spouse and myself are attempting to rid ourselves of a three-drawer dresser that has plagued us for a long time. We have used it to its fullest extent but it is so terribly heavy and takes up more space than it saves, rendering it nothing but a troublesome burden. An expensive one, at that, when we make another cross-country move.
We are primarily trying to get it out of our apartment; we're not greedily asking for lashings of money. Yet, for some inexplicable reason, nobody wants it.
I know that there are people out there who would be willing to take a used item, be it clothing, books or household items. Finding those few people, however, is a monstrous task.
I fear greatly that we will have to haul the dresser away ourselves and dispose of it. It makes me very sad: it is a beautiful item. The only flaw, as I see it from the perspective of a potential buyer, is that the dresser does not come sealed in plastic, smelling of a factory and with a price tag of some hundreds of dollars.
My Spouse takes a packed lunch to work. We used to buy deli meat and complain about it every week. It was not just the price, it was the bland taste and the lack of creativity that was stifling us. The twenty minutes of a precious Saturday we lost waiting in line at the deli counter did not help either. Now we cook meatballs for a much lower price, and lunch is not a problem. Lunch is also very tasty. There is no shame in cooking instead of going to a restaurant and no shame in taking a home-cooked lunch to work instead of a pre-cooked, fancy label package.
It is all about the personal kinds of value that you place on things, and a little bit of compromise, if one must see it that way.

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