When we breathe in, we take what we need, then breathe out what we need to expel. We do not take more than we need, and we cannot store it because of the need to exhale the gases, which are toxic to us, though vital for plants. We share our breath with every living, respiring thing on the planet. It is the most beautiful, egalitarian expression on Earth.
When we eat on the other hand, we can eat more than we need. We can store it as fat for later, a perfectly valid evolutionary means of insuring against later food shortages, thus prolonging or maintaining life. We can even become obese, which in contrast is life-denying and can even be life-destroying. This ability to store creates greed and inequality. It begins with food and carries through to possessions, money, land and so on…..
When a tribe without storage facilities kills a large animal, of course it is shared out amongst all the members before it begins to rot. When we have a deep freeze, or even a good supply of salt, we save it for ourselves to eat later without sharing it. When we harvest grains and we have a grain store, we save it to sell or process and sell, or process again and sell……..etc., profits increasing up the chain.
And so, we become greedy and all-consuming: hoarders bloated with wealth leaving others bloated with hunger. We become cruel and exploitative, disrespectful of other people, animals, life and the planet itself, out of touch with our higher selves and qualities associated with sharing, such as love, and compassion. Ultimately we are left without any real meaning to life and everything becomes a commodity to sell for profit. Of course I am not saying we should get rid of all food storage systems, only that we should be aware of how greed and exploitation arise from our most basic needs, and while society is based on this kind of trade, it needs to be tempered by that awareness. We can decide not to over-indulge, not to become bloated with fat or wealth, burdened by our possessions, obsessed with security, monitored at every step. Just as obesity is a negative effect of a positive, natural insurance policy, so is an obsession with the accumulation of wealth and possessions. Ultimately it makes us and everyone else (not to mention the rest of life and the stressed planet) unhappy and anxious, especially when combined with an ever-widening gap between rich and poor.
It begins with food…….. Remember, when we breathe we are breathing in life and giving life – sharing in its vast web and without the next breath we die. It really is as simple as that. Try to hold your breath forever and you will suffer agonies and ultimately fail. The same is true of possessions, people and everything else. One way or another there comes a time when we have to let go. Breathe in, breathe out and give thanks for each breath.