19 June 2007

Gate of the Year

There are just some images or phrases that stick with you. I don't even remember reading this poem before tonight, but for years I've thought about "the man who stood at the gate of the year." I finally had to look up where it came from. Is it weird that I love how this phrase feels?

I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year.
"Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown."

And he replied, "Go into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way!"

So I went forth and finding the Hand of God
Trod gladly into the night
He led me towards the hills
And the breaking of day in the lone east.

--Minnie Louise Haskins

Dining on $1.27

Today I arrived at my all-day seminar class with the dawning realization that I had forgotten my wallet at home. The immediate problem was that I had no credit card, no debit card, no photo ID to accompany a personal check—in other words, no way of procuring food. When lunch time came, I decided to conduct a little experiment: what type of meal could I afford with the change I scrounged from my car. After a rigorous search of Petey the Mazda Protégé (part-automobile, part-laundry basket), I ended up with:

2 Quarters
6 Dimes
1 Nickel
12 Pennies

A grand total of $1.27 with which to buy lunch. Quickly doing a little mental math, I calculated that I could purchase any ONE item from the surrounding fast food value/extra value/super value menus. But since a Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger hardly constitutes a meal, and I avoid junk food like the plague (yeah right!), I headed over to the local “Low Price Leader” to see what I could afford.

I walked every food aisle in Wal-Mart for most of my 45 minute lunch period, finally settling on a large banana (.48 lbs @ 54¢/lb), a strawberry yogurt (38¢), and a single-pack string cheese (25¢) over the deli corn dog (78¢), as per my previous fast food ban. After tax, I still had a whole 37¢ left. Not wanting to be wasteful, I visited the Sam’s brand soda machine on my way out. After popping my remaining quarter into the machine, I punched the Dr. Thunder button. Nothing came out. I worked my way down the soda hierarchy, trying the buttons for Root Beer, Sam’s Cola, Twist-Up, and finally both Orangette and Purplette. All to no avail; my quarter, a shiny 2005 with Oregon and Crater Lake emblazoned on the back, was gone forever.

Now, some of you may wish to use this anecdote as fodder for any latent anti-Wal-Mart feelings you may be repressing. Surely this is yet another damning example of Wal-Mart’s feebly-masked greed. After all, you might reason, WallyWorld has been sticking it to customers, employees, competitors, and the general public for years, so why should being bullied out of my lunch money be surprising?

But as for me, the main lesson of lunch (in addition to the fact that I had just squandered nearly 20% of my cash reserves on something I really didn’t want) was something a little more significant: according to the World Bank, half of the earth’s population lives on less than $2 per day and 1.3 BILLION people live on less than $1 per day. I can’t even make it through one meal for that little.

“Almost half the world’s population lives on less than two dollars a day, yet even this statistic fails to capture the humiliation, powerlessness and brutal hardship that is the daily lot of the world’s poor.” -Kofi Annan

I’m really not out to moralize, but maybe I ought to be a little more grateful and a little more giving.

03 June 2007

Poignant Art, Part Two

"One-third of a Nation"
By Arnold Eagle and David Robbins, 1938


Michelangelo called this "Prisoner."
I might title it something like "The Pain of Progress."
What do you think?