8.03.2010

Don't Waste Anything, Especially Not Your Life


My deep-seated aversion to waste is well-documented in this space. I continue to marvel at our profligacy in so many facets of our lives here in America. We leave lights on, water running, and refrigerator doors open. We waste an unbelievable amount of food, and compound our inefficiency by dumping it into our garbage cans instead of composting it. We spend money treating our water so we can water our lawns with it, and then we spend more money dealing with stormwater that could have otherwise been used for that purpose. We are on the brink of an obesity epidemic because of our love for sugar and salt, and yet we miss actually tasting most of the sugar and salt that goes into our mouths because we eat so fast and so distractedly.

I liked this recent post over at the Freakonomics blog about knowing what is scarce and adjusting to it. The human race is nothing if not innovative; and, faced with scarcities of all kinds, we figure out astounding solutions, whether what is scarce is water, capital, beachfront space.

The problem with waste is that we have lost sight of what is scarce, with ruinous implications to our bodies, our pocketbooks, and our planet. In other words, the real problem is not that we are faced with scarcity - for, as noted above, we are clever enough to cope with such a limitation - but that we do not realize or accept that we are faced with scarcity and so do not change our behavior as we ought.

On a grander and more eternal scale, what is scarcest of all is life. Here of all places one would think that the impulse to survive would trump our insanity and idiocy. And yet here we see the most blatant forms of waste of all: we condone killing of all kinds, we have turned life-sapping actions into entertainment, and we numb ourselves from experiencing true life altogether. Well is one of Pastor John Piper's favorite exhortations, "Don't waste your life!"

(Paradoxically, it may seem, not wasting your life is not the same thing as saving your life; for it is in the giving of our lives - and sometimes the giving up of our lives, and in that we have a great example, the greatest example of all - that we truly live. And, I do not refer to not wasting your life as always striving; for ceasing from striving has its role in truly living. But I digress.)

Today's post is windy, long-winded, and dense. Not one of my better posts, from a readability standpoint. But I hope the point is made nonetheless. If, like me, your brain hurts after slogging through this post, take comfort that you are at least wrestling with things that matter. The alternative is deadening.

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