What Is This Teaching Me?

So, here I am in the midst of another month of doing without.  My plan calls for doing without, for one month at a time, something I enjoy; this month, I’m depriving myself of a category of food I enjoy: meat.

Now, on this eleventh day of October, I have just twenty more days of meatlessness. When I went without coffee in August, it was fairly easy, as I expected.  And I expected doing without alcohol in September would not be particularly challenging; it wasn’t.  But this, this doing without meat. This is not as easy as I expected.  It’s not so much the desire for meat, I suppose, as it is the habit of meat.

I do not really crave meat, but I do enjoy eating it.  I’ve often said I thought it would be easy for me to become vegetarian because I enjoy so many non-meat dishes; I love veggies of all kinds prepared in all sorts of ways.  Frequently, I (we) will forego meat several times a week in favor of a vegetarian dish.  But it didn’t occur to me that our several times a week were not several consecutive days a week.

Part of this matter of missing meat so much almost certainly has to do with my lack of proper planning.  I haven’t created menus.  Instead, I browsed through a bunch of recipes, made a list of ingredients I needed to make them, and bought the stuff.  But I failed to take into account that several of the recipes I glanced at were just side dishes.  Eating more of them doesn’t necessarily make a balanced meal.  I wondered what I needed to do to make this month of doing without a little more tolerable, a little easier.

And then it occurred to me that my dilemma is so very, very petty.

As I was mulling over what this exercise in doing without may be teaching me, I kept coming back to the fact that my experience is purely voluntary.  The challenges of my “doing without” pale in comparison to the daily experiences of people the world over who have no choice but to do without.  People everywhere do without electricity, running water, adequate food, sanitary living conditions, and reasonable assurances they are safe from attack.  They live in a state of imposed asceticism with little hope for escape.

My one-month experiments are pin-pricks compared to the open, festering wounds of people who have no choice but to live month-by-month and year-by-year in conditions that I might be unable to tolerate and sustain for even a week.

Though my one-month experiments thus far have not been especially difficult, at least they have begun to make me realize and appreciate how truly little I suffer in comparison to others.  I hope to keep learning from these experiences.

Perhaps I can learn more than to simply appreciate what I have. Perhaps I will learn not only that I don’t need some of the luxuries to which I’ve become so accustomed, but that I am doing myself, and the world around me, a disservice by taking advantage of their availability.  Maybe doing without is good.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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4 Responses to What Is This Teaching Me?

  1. druxha says:

    John, glad to hear you did the “no salt”. For me it was the worst, for the food tasted something like air…no body or soul to it! I did this for several years, and man-o-man, it was rough! Well, with this in mind, you’ve run the gamut, good man! Jesus! Hat tipped! 🙂

  2. Good thoughts, indeed, Trish. As for salt…I’ve done that, though not for a long while. It was tough, but I actually came to appreciate salt more for it. Now, I use less, but taste it more!

  3. druxha says:

    And if you want to really want a test (not at all to lessen your accomplishments, just an additional hurl for you are testing yourself) , I highly recommend trying “no salt”. I did this with my 1st husband, for it was forbidden for his heart condition. As part of the packed of solitude , I cooked, and ate the same (didn’t want to him to give in to temptation.) Not to make lite of Jesus and Matthews verses, which often reference salt, which we know has its philosophical meaning…and “we are the salt of the earth”, but I seeing it realistically, no salt has greater consequence, John. Just a random thought over your months of refraining from one indulgence to the other…:)

  4. druxha says:

    John, living in a country where a common view would be (amongst others) a child as young as five years old tapping on your car window at any given stop light to sell “chiclets”, and knowing well that the parents sent them there, will confiscate anything they bring in, and the parents know the child has a better chance at the “sale” through sympathy, is heart rendering! Till this day I say to myself, should I buy the chiclets? Should I refuse to do so to diminish the problem? Its a hard call. But in reality, neither decision changes anything. Very frustrating!

    On another note, over the years due to this high poverty surrounding me, and compounded by the fact I’ve passed long spells (in the past) with out electricity and water, which was paid for, but there were “glitches” in service, I discovered that there were a great many luxuries that could surely be forgotten. I realized that there was some “whiddling” to be done. With that in mind, I commenced on a conscious level, and in the end, found my self better off, bringing me to question my life in the US, and the spoils that it evokes. One TV, one computer. Although, I still delight ever so often in a block of extra sharp cheddar cheese, found once in a blue moon in Costco, this is not habitual, for I prefer to frequent the local citizens of the “street market”. They are the ones that need the patronizing, not the conglomerate monster of Costco.

Please tell me how this post strikes you.