Sharing with you on a weekly basis reminds me that there are things I tell you and other things (at least to this point) I do not. It has been a long week, full of things to ponder and things about which I would rather not have to think. Telling and not telling: are these sins of omission, attempts to make my life easy or just taking care of myself?
Not thinking: it is a handy survival technique. It is handy to sweep aside the multitude of cognitive dissonances. Helpful to ignore the compromises. Lamentable to recall all the times when I could and maybe should have spoken out, feel unforgivable to think of the times when I did speak with low-level conviction that left me feeling petty—or not feeling the righteousness of any conviction.
Our silences and words: they reveal and conceal more truths than we have the time or energy to contemplate. Too many things on our minds and hearts, and we find ourselves sliding down just as many paths of least resistance. It is said that Yogi Berra uttered the words, “When you come to the fork in the road, take it.”
Along these paths, do we lose ourselves? Do we lose our identities? Or maybe these paths define us, tell us who we are, and make us who we are.
Who am I? The other day, I went for a walk. I gave it a purpose, to get a roasted chicken, because they are cheaper on Tuesdays at Whole Foods. Whole Foods? Was this trip a path of least resistance? The trip got me out of the house and a little exercise on a nice, sunny day. It allowed me to do better than the usual roasted chicken deal, especially given that I did not have to drive and that I did not want to find myself without a chicken, while my son and I tried to cobble together supper's menu.
Should I be telling you this? If I am silent, will my unexamined life allow me to stand not charged with any transgressions? If I explain, speak up with tons of rationalization, do I absolve myself from trespass? Or maybe it would have been better to not even think about it, create an internal ignorance.
But I cannot help but think. Moral hazard. Vital encumbrance. Here are the list of rationalizations I can use to mete out my earthly, momentary salvation:
- I think I will be forgiven by my fellow “member/owners” at the Mississippi Market co-op, but maybe my acquiescence to “Corporate Foods” marks me as less than a true committed neighbor. I think I will not be scolded for a lapse in thriftiness for not going to Rainbow or Cub Foods, especially since the price was not any different on this day. Did my trip mark a desire to eschew the less hip and blend in with a more monied, better tended, more conspicuously maintained, better coiffed-but-too-casual-to-let-on-how-hard-we're-trying crowd? Did I just want to pretend identity with the crowd that poses as more pretty without the bling? Did I pass?
- I don't really care if I passed. I passed enough not to draw too much attention, ire, or a companion set of employee eyes: the eyes that follow the usual suspects around the store to make sure items found their way into my basket and checkout rather than my pockets.
- I just wanted a walk. I wanted the sun on a rare warm February day. I wanted a chicken. I wanted to keep as much money in my pocket as I could keep and still have protein.
Whether I should have gone to my co-op, whether I could really “hang” with the people who can afford to shop at Whole Foods on a regular basis, whether I really deserve to describe them as different from me—or I as not them, and to figure out why either they or I have invested in that social stratum, it was easy. At least on Tuesday it was. Why do I worry?
I just spent an awful bit of space rationalizing my actions, protecting myself from guilt, mostly imposed by my own warped moral compass of insecurities. My protestations are indications of a strange fear. Are the paths of least resistance really slippery roads to damnation? The idealism of my youth allowed me more time and energy and conviction to contemplate that truth. Yes, there is hell to pay at the end of these roads, no matter what fork you take, but there is also grace along the way.
Maybe it is my Baptist upbringing that wants to demonize something else or someone else—someone other for my perceived transgressions. Maybe it is that same upbringing that lets me decide that Corporate Foods and the people who shop there are okay, now that I've decided that I am one of them, and we can choose someone else to demonize—manufacture categories for others' transgressions.
Maybe it is enough that the next day, I made my trek to Mississippi Market, stood in the short line at checkout, and let my son remember our member number (because I keep forgetting), then made our way home for supper and homework.
I am still thinking of something to write, which sins of mine and others I want to expose to the world. The “sad man behind blue eyes” “bites back hard on his anger.” I bite back hard on words of some of my sins and those of others. Still, the “pain and woe show through” in spite of my desire to protect myself from guilt and the breadcrumb sins of a manufactured morality. In the mean time, I will dwell on the moral imperative that tells me we have to eat (chicken) and take care of our neighbors (co-op) and think ourselves as good.