Of Camels

I never aspired to be a starving artist, or a starving anything, for that matter. Maybe that’s my problem, that I should have wanted to Suffer for my Art, and instead I only wanted to be able to pay for things, like shelter, and food, and clothing, and health insurance—the list goes on, really. Turns out, I like to spend money. But maybe like turned into love, want turned into need, and I became a bloated camel, unable to fit through anything.

Of course I’m making it sound like a choice when sometimes it isn’t, when sometimes you don’t get an option marked: “Don’t starve.” Here in the U.S., I sometimes feel like the only real safety net is a credit card. In some states, even incarceration incurs an IOU. And if you didn’t start out with something, enough of a something to get that card, then, heaven help you, because no one else will. Food stamps come with drug tests, lest you come to the mistaken conclusion that everyone is entitled to eat. Not so fast! Maybe you deserved your destitution, your starvation, the whole misery that can be human existence when you go without.

On the other hand … how much do you really need? I’m reminded of something I read, read long enough ago that I could just be making it up, that some of happiest people live in Africa. Not war-torn Africa, but nonetheless poor Africa: grass huts, dirt trails, no toilets. Maybe they don’t live as long, but they were happy as long as they lived. And also reminded me of some story about Native Americans, some long time ago, when Manifest Destiny was just getting started, when some Indian, somewhere, apparently said: We don’t understand the white men. We think they are all crazy.

Have we been made crazy, then—insane, depressed, unhappy with our generous lots in life, wanting, ever, always, perpetually wanting, shit we don’t need? Maybe I should have chosen starvation, lilies of the field. Maybe it would have meant choosing happiness.

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