The thing about really experiencing life is that you never really can tell what’s coming, and you just have to fly with it. There have been numerous instances in my life of this, and I don’t want to just sit down and list them all for you. But I do believe that everything happens for a reason, and it is important to embrace the good and the bad. I’m not saying to abuse this principle, don’t go seeking trouble because you think it’s predestination. My point is this –> hindsight is 20/20, and if you take some time to think about the good and bad experiences you have in the context of your whole life, you really can learn a lot. That is more valuable than perhaps having altogether avoided an uncomfortable, scary, dangerous or challenging situation.
I’m slowly coming out of one of those bad phases now. It’s been a long, difficult two years, but they have been some of the most valuable years of my life. I learned a lot, I grew a lot, I was humbled a lot. I also came to recognize that a lot of my regrettable habits and decisions stem from anxiety, which stem from fears, which I allow to “take the wheel and steer” (a la Incubus.) This is merely an observation, not a judgement towards myself — and by keeping it at such and not labeling or condemning my persona, I can start to see connections.
I have had a roller-coaster ride of a relationship with food for as long as I can remember. Hoarding it, sneaking it, counting it, restricting it, cooking it, studying it — but having a somewhat fear/fascination with famine throughout. Those horrible pictures of starving babies in Sudan? They make me want to cry. Or throw up. Or both. Child abuse? Eating Disorders? Familial relationships? Passion? The brown soil, the green grass? It really is all connected to one thing: hunger.
We are all hungry.
When I was young, I thought hunger was that grumblesome feeling in my tummy that made all things — even cauliflower — seem delicious. As I grew up, I began to hunger for other things, like knowledge, purpose, acceptance and love. My life was lacking in those areas and felt displaced and rejected. I don’t want to say that it was any one person’s fault, though. I don’t blame society or my peers, my parents or my teachers. It’s just something that happened. While I had a subconscious awareness of who I was (and was okay with her when I was alone), something about being around others made me nervous, fearful, defensive, unsure of myself. I was hungry for something more, and I didn’t know what. I didn’t even realize that I was hungry at all.
Feeling so disconnected eventually took a toll on my inner self-connection. I lost touch with how to take care of myself, and kind of forgot that I needed to. I pushed myself in some areas and refused to take breaks, and I denied myself in other areas, and refused to show myself grace. Anorexia. Depression. Anxiety. Pain.
Those experiences aren’t so different from what I imagine these children to have had:
Displaced by war. Lost families. Malnourishment. I don’t actually know, I’m just imagining.
In modern society, it might be frowned upon for me to compare my own past with the past of someone in a third-world country, without all the beautiful privileges I have in America, like education, access to food, hygiene, shelter, freedom, etc. I’m not talking about political factors here, though. I’m talking about those forces that pulse through our brains; perhaps we are aware of them, perhaps we aren’t.
Physical hunger can be one of those forces, too. I know what it’s like to be hungry. Not just grumlby tummy hungry, the kind where the hunger starts to hurt — and then stops hurting — and then everything else starts hurting. Dizzy, faint, weak. Scared. Numb.
When I look at those children’s picture, yes I pity them to a certain degree, I fear for them, I cry for them, I pray for them. But I also understand them. They aren’t lesser humans, in need of special treatment or special help, they are capable of great, powerful things. Powerful good or even powerful evil, as am I. They just don’t know how to reach that strength because they need nourishment first.
Food only goes so far, but it’s an important factor. Without it, the mind is faint, the soul gives up.
Spiritual food gives strength. Think adrenaline. Anybody can feed anybody spiritually. Yes, it’s possible.
Mental food — this is the part that can become a bit sketchy. “Western supremacy, huh?” It really is an underlying value in the American society. We drive nice cars, we eat bacon, we stress about college applications, we joke about the diseases that plague us, we feed our scraps to the dog instead of the garbage can in honor of world hunger.
That’s not doing anything though. I’m not saying that we have to actually get up and do something right this minute, either. But it’s important to understand that mere awareness isn’t doing anything. What is so much more powerful than reading a book about philanthropy, making a sandwich for a homeless man or tutoring an inner-city child is the capability and the strength to understand those people. I think everybody is capable of this, although it can’t really be put into words. I can’t tell you how to understand.
It’s just as simple as being in touch with humanity, our humanness, who we are as a whole. But it’s also just that complicated.