on seeing scarcity in abundance

At the end of an Ayahuasca ceremony, after what amounts to well over a day’s fast, you feast with your brothers and sisters, and it’s the most beautiful communion you’ve ever experienced. It feels like the first time you’ve ever eaten anything, and it’s with people who feel like they’ve been your family forever. Needless to say, everything tastes beyond delicious. Because there’s more than the simple sensual reality of food touching tongue. When you bring a piece of pineapple to your mouth, you experience the universe. It’s all there in that nutriment. You are that nutriment. You feast on yourself, the universe is nourished by you, and all is one.

As you recognize this reality, you start to understand how little you need to consume to be. Life doesn’t need much, and yet we consume as if it can’t get enough. We devour as if we’ll never have enough, even though we already have everything we need. Yes, this is a stance I can take more easily because of monumental intersectional privilege, and it’s a stance I transform into an absolute as a result of that privilege, yet such awareness does little to mitigate its profundity.

I’m getting lost in language: during these ceremonies, I realized that I’m surrounded by a bounty. I don’t need – and in the moments of the ceremony, I didn’t even want – very much. When platters of food were passed around, I let my body choose what it needed, and it took a modest amount: a few pieces of fruit and a relatively meager sampling of other offerings. I was grateful for whatever I received. I hoped this feeling would endure when I returned home.

At home, back in a culture that encourages gross consumption, markets it as virtue, bills it as an essential element of identity, I regressed into an obsessive omnivore. Desire returned to its throne, accompanied by dignity. I started thinking about how much I deserve, as if the universe is entitled to give me whatever I demand. And I demand my share, which turns out to be substantial. I’m an active player in America’s tragedy of the commons.

I have food anxiety. I never think about if I’ll eat; instead, I dwell on what I’ll eat. Strangely, even though I’ve never experienced the reality of scarcity, I approach each meal, and the one that follows it, and sometimes one the next day (or even during some trip I have planned) as if I know scarcity. I worry that I won’t eat, or that I won’t get to eat enough, or – worse still – that someone else will get more than me. I see inequity where there’s never been any; or rather, I fail to see how I participate in inequity, how I’m the one preventing others from getting what they need because I’m so fucking lost in getting what I blindly assume I deserve.

I have my cake and eat it too and then forget that it happened and start crying about how I want it and deserve it. I’m entitled. I lie about not getting my fair share. I tell stories of scarcity in order to maintain an abundance I refuse to accept is real. I tell stories about these stories that say I’m allowed to command like this. I step back and write about all of it to feel my own self-deluding virtue again, creating an absolution that I tell myself comes from elsewhere. I fall back into habit and eat whatever I wish. When I’m finished being my own genie, I rub the lamp and yell at the universe for not giving it all up again. But “again” implies that I remember the past and feel grateful for it, or that I see the present clearly and am grateful for that. Nope. As far as I’m concerned, I’ve never had the right meal. I’ve never had enough.

And then I wonder, before welcoming oblivion once more, when will I have enough of pretending that I never have enough?

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