After reading the essays by Barbera Ascher, Lars Eighner and Barbara Ehrenreich, I was rather surprised and intrigued by the way of topics representation in them. Even though they are rather short in length, they touch such themes that are always topical, evolving and getting new aspects with time. These topics can be called eternal, while being not very pleasant ones. Still, I find them interesting, as they make me think differently in certain aspects, which is always a valuable experience.
The main topic that unites the three authors is the superficial way Americans perceive their life. It can be spotted in everything we do – from the way we express ourselves to how we treat the other people. Too often there are hidden motives of our actions, which are usually missed due to the fact that it is hard to understand everything if you in fact don’t want to do it. For example, Barbara Ascher in her essay tried to show what drives people when they give money to the poor and homeless. Although it may seem as compassion to the majority of people, in fact it is often fear or desire to get rid of the presence of people who are unpleasant to us. I can but say that the author was very effective in demonstrating her thoughts, which was primarily achieved due to the perfectly selected examples that she used. Lars Eighner in his work also describes how people’s nature can be superficial. They are ready for everything not to show that they are interested in the leftovers in Dumpsters, for instance.
This wasteful nature of the American soul, which is meticulously described by Eighner was really interesting to me. It was so due to the way the author demonstrated it – by presenting a story of a homeless person who sees the trash every day and for whom it is the main source for living. It is true that such people know a lot about others, as trash perfectly shows our attitude to life. Living a life of a Dumpster diver gives a valuable insight into people’s life, and it is easy to see how wasteful we often are, throwing away a lot of things in perfect condition. Often we do it if such things mean something bad for us, or when we get bored of them. It is often characteristic of us all, as we are not used to properly value what we have, for which we later pay. The same idea can be traced in Ascher’s essay, as according to her, we are ready to pay off from unpleasant strangers to feel secured, We are not ready to value what we have, which is easily seen in the way we treat homeless, as well as other people. Barbara Ehrenreich also supports this opinion, showing examples of people’s life who belong to the lower class and who are forced to live on a short budget. She describes the way such people are treated and conditions, in which they have to live, which shows that in fact the majority of people are wasteful in nature, but often they even don’t understand it.
The thoughts about the wasteful nature of our souls made me also consider the question of who is rich in fact: people who have their homes and means for living, or those who understand how to value their life? The first group should be further subdivided into those who are really wealthy, having well-paid jobs and deny themselves nothing, and those who can be classified as middle class – having money for house maintenance and food, while having to save in some areas.
If we take this secret into account we will see that homeless people often have more chances to be happy, than those who have all they need in terms of money and status. Of course, it cannot be said about everyone, as it is a special art of life that has to be understood and trained. It is all too easy to constantly complain about life, showing no desire of living a happy life, which is absolutely possible in all conditions, even in the ones of poverty. But still, people can be really happy when living poor life, as the majority of them know the harsh side of this world and have learnt to perceive in positive light. Eighner, for instance, compares life of a homeless person with that of a rich one in the fact that they both have access to a great variety of things and only those who can master their desire to possess as much as possible can end up having only what they really need, which is really necessary for happiness.
Those people who belong to the middle class also have their chances to be happy, if they understand how important it is to value what they have. They can find such happiness in every aspect of their lives. For instance, in their work, as it is described by Barbara Ehrenreich. She describes how performing high quality work can become a real sense of people’s life, and how it is necessary to get all the possible pleasure from it. In Ascher’s essay this aspect also receives attention, as she wonders why people feel compassion to homeless and can it be equally true for everyone.
Another aspect that was interesting for me when reading the essays is the way the authors elaborated on the details of definitions of the realities that are quite familiar for people. I think that by the way Barbara Ascher explained compassion, Lars Eighner scavenging, scrounging and foraging they wanted to show that such simple words can have much more behind them than we can ever understand. I think that it is extremely important to think over such “simple” definitions from different approaches, as only in this way it is possible to fully understand their meaning and see what it is really all about.
What fascinated me also was the way Eighner and Ehrenreich described the ethics of the environment which they demonstrated. As for me, I never thought that Dumpster divers have some ethical principles to follow. I thought that they just live anyroad, without any such things bothering them. But the high and educated tone, in which Lars Eighner describes the events in his essay made me think in the first turn that I know very little about such people. When I reached the part where he was writing about the ethics, I started to think that this life must have a great lot of surprises for me in future. Ehrenreich also talked about the ethics of the low-paid jobs, and it also fascinated me because of its complexity and background.
Ascher, Barbara. “On Compassion,” n.d. PDF file.
Ehrenreich, Barbara. “Serving in Florida”, n.d. Microsoft Word file.
Eighner, Lars. “On Dumpster Diving,” n.d. PDF file.
Harford, Tim. “Money Doesn’t Make People Happy.” Forbes.com. Forbes, 14 Feb. 2006. Web. 19 Oct. 2011.