Ed: This month the Undercurrent is focusing on going without. I started to consider the topic and realize that I hadn't gone without for some time. In fact, the more I thought about the issue, the more I realized that I live a life that often does not consider the word, "no." If I want it, I usually get it. I'm not trying to say that I'm some sort of spoiled brat, or that I'm living excessively, but I do live comfortably. I have a roof over my head, a vehicle, health insurance, dental plan, and a job. I've also got a lot of great relationships in life, and I would say that the majority of the people I'm around live in a similar fashion. So what do I know about going without? As I thought about it all and a story a friend recently related to me, we live comfortably and enjoy life while some of the worst things in history are going on. But it hasn't always been that way for me. At other points in life I didn't have as much, and had to make a lot more decisions on what to include in life and what I was willing to go without. Or, at other points I've taken part in fasting (going without) as a spiritual discipline. And, it seems that when I have denied myself of things for periods of time it has been beneficial and freeing. I realize that the things I've included in my life can be put aside and that I can see greater potentials to life. But in both of these examples I still realize that I have significant control in deciding whether I will go without something or what I will go without. What do you think, Adam? What does it mean for you to go without?
Adam: I don't know that I could speak to "going without" in any manner much differently than your experience, Ed. Granted, I understand that as a white male, I live a life of extreme privilege in the United States of America. I'm not subjected to sexism, or racism, or any of the other isms (except for maybe a religious one) because I drew the lucky straw with my birth. So, for the sake of exercise, I'll draw the following comparison. Without giving away the numbers, my family of five (parents and two brothers) lived, for a good chunk of the 80's and 90's, on about the same income that I now live on alone (plus my two cats and goldfish). But, to be forthright and honest, "going without" for me means, not having cable or satellite TV, not being able to afford a new car or the requisite payments, not getting that last beer at the bar, or not buying a new music album. As well, I do understand and hold a palpable fear that at this point in history, I could lose my job any day of the week which means that while I understand I live in luxury compared to most, it's a precarious luxury.
Ed: Those are all great points, Adam. I think that it’s good to deny and discipline yourself at times by going without things, but beyond that it seems sort of forced and a bit frivolous. Our lifestyles afford us many things, but they also cause us to go without other things. Neither of us are in a position to say what it’s like to live without a consistent source of food, without shelter, without peace of mind, or even without health care, although I hear you don’t have the best coverage in the world. Having said all that, I think that it is good to use this opportunity of thinking about what we going without to evaluate what is going into your life and try and think about its priority. Are the things we are consuming making us better? Are the jobs we have allowing us to enjoy life? Are the foods we eat the most healthy and responsible choices? I recently read about two people trying to live on a food budget of $72 a week, which is approximately what a family of two in California can receive in foods stamps. $72 a week doesn’t sound that hard, but when you factor in stops at Chik-fil-a or drinks at the local bar that $72 disappears real quick. If you want to live that disciplined a life you learn very quickly that you’re going without drinks out and fast food. Good for the body, bad for the social life. Maybe we can both keep going with, at least in healthy moderation. And again I’m back to not saying no.