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Saturday, April 18, 2009

More Supermarket Musings

Unseemly abundance leads to feelings of despair.  Not to get all preachy, but when something like three billion people eke out an existence on a dollar a day, you can find yourself really depressed by the potato section of Your Grocer's Freezer.

Shoestring fries, crinkly fries, steak fries, crinkly steak fries, seasoned steak fries, garlic fries, and, of course, tater tots.  And that's just Ore Ida.

Now, the Solipsist is no ascetic.  He's hardly living in a cave lit by bioluminescent moths and eating nothing but the produce of his own self-fertilized garden.  Glancing around his living room, he sees the fruits of his own labors transubstantiated into items frivolous or at least unnecessary: books, sure, but also DVDs, video games, cutesy knick knacks, and snacks, snacks, snacks (but no Pringles, thank you).  And, in all honesty, despite a somewhat bulging waistline and a somewhat shaky credit rating, he has no real intention to cut back.  But then something like an overabundance of french-fry options brings home the absurdity of modern capitalism, and he has to question his own hypocrisy.

Granted, life should consist of more than just the bare necessities of food and shelter.  Abraham Maslow showed us that when he developed his "Hierarchy of Needs."  Perhaps we can survive as long as our physiological needs are met, but human nature requires more than physiological security to be happy.  One could make a case that many of the "unnecessary" items we spend our time accumulating actually help us satisfy some of the other needs Maslow posited.  Maybe one's video games--especially with their online components--help us satisfy social needs; perhaps our other worldly possessions elevate (however inappropriately) our self-esteem; conceivably, our collections of literature help us achieve self-actualization.

But, sorry, nothing in the Hierarchy calls for an obscene number of choices in frozen french fries.  That kind of thing forces one to examine all the items around one and question what possible needs they satisfy.  Maybe a little introspection is a good thing.

So while the Solipsist will not be so hypocritical as to enjoin the Sloppists to shed themselves of worldly possessions, he will offer this one small suggestion: Once in a while, make your own garlic fries.  A small thing?  Absolutely.  But little by little, we can possibly effect a minor simplification in Our Grocer's Freezers and elsewhere.  And if less energy is being expended in satisfying artificial needs, maybe more can be expended in more worthwhile pursuits.

Every little bit helps.

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