Steps toward reducing needs.


Isn’t that the mandate of the anti-capitalist?  The goal of the contemplative few who aspire to be one of “I am who I am, not what I do” people of the world?

It takes a very special person to choose to take bold steps toward completely reducing personal needs.

Take the guy sleeping on a street grate on 43rd Street near 6th avenue – he’s got a smile on his face – is he a “reducer”?   His head is resting on his backpack.  He has a knitted cap covering his hair, and the hood of his down jacket adding one more layer of insulation for his head.  HIs bearded face looks like it could use a wash, but he does have a joyful expression on that face.   

Almost everyone focused on punching in by 8:30am ignores him as they rush past him.  Their frenetic rush to their money-making endeavors don’t disturb his sleep.  No.  His roost on top of the subway grate is quite warm, if not comfortable.  It must have taken a couple of bottles of some kind of liquor or dope to make him opt to make his bed on top of a metal lattice bed.  No cardboard box to buffer his body from the hard steel.  Maybe he’s wearing a few layers of clothing (better to wear your entire wardrobe than to carry it – especially when you are backing packing for life).  

How long did it take him to find the perfectly restful position that eased him into such a restful sleep?  Most people pay hundreds, even thousands of dollars for their bed, and still have to spend a good chunk of time adjusting their pillows, digging out the perfect groove in their bedding, as they consciously inhale and exhale hoping to drift into the deep delta sleep that this bearded-street-sleeper clearly was enjoying in the middle of early morning rush hour in the loudest, busiest city in America.

Will he wake up achy and miserable, feeling the every muscle and tendon on the right side of his body screaming with pain? Will he look around, realize he is actually sleeping on a New York City sidewalk and not in a bed in a home somewhere – and feel like a failure? Will the thought of spending his day scrounging for his next meal make him feel hopeless? Or will the heavy weight of being unseen and lonely in one of the most populated cities of the world crush him? Will he ponder his life’s purpose and the steps he has taken, and feel insignificant and diminished.  Will he contemplate stepping in front of an oncoming train just to end the endless stream of “Why me?” from flooding his conscious mind?  Is he broken and uninspired like the rest of us, just without the burden of daily clock-ins and clock-outs?  Did he stumble and and lose sight of a life lived in service of keeping bill collectors calm and satisfied?  

Or is he skipping along in his dream world, leaving a trail of happy feet in the pavement – happy to be free of the monthly struggle to maintain shelter, cellphone, cable television/internet, reliable food supply and social status?  
Is he actually as content and joyous his sleepy smile would suggest?

2 thoughts on “Steps

  1. I would hope that happiness, purpose and meaning are found in the doing. In making things better for oneself, one’s loved ones and the community. I do not think it is found in reducing one’s needs, where the best way to achieve this goal would be death. So I strongly disagree with you on this one, but appreciate your thoughtful prose which motivate me to think. Happy Fourth of July!


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