I ordered a hot meal at New Seasons grocery store, ate it in a hurry, then did my normal food shopping. As I was exiting the store, I realized I’d forgotten to pay for my dinner in the checkout line. I was in a hurry so I didn’t return to pay for it.
In the past I’ve always been scrupulously honest about stuff like that. If, by mistake, a stray avocado got hidden under one of my canvas bags in the grocery cart, and I realized that I hadn’t paid for it, I’d get back in line and pay for the avocado. Also, New Seasons gives you the option in the checkout line to add $1.60 to your grocery bill to pay for a hot meal for someone at a homeless shelter, and I’ve contributed my buck-sixty countless times.
So I’ve been a good citizen overall. But as I left the store, I decided it would be interesting to just hang out with the discomfort of being a thief this once, and see what it revealed, if anything. I wasn’t worried that the eight bucks I had neglected to pay would bankrupt the store or that anyone would ever even notice. The issue, I thought, was really my own self-esteem, how I viewed myself. It was all about my relationship with myself, and whether I would feel a sense of guilt, or a fear that somehow I might be karmically punished for my act of petty thievery. Such feelings could have something to teach me and it might be worth my time to “hang out” with those feelings and examine those fears.
I smoked some pot a night or two later and was walking in Mt. Tabor Park when it dawned me that the issue went beyond my self-esteem, to my core values.
I want to build things up, not tear them down. I want to help maintain the integrity of institutions and commerce and not muddle the meanings of things, especially in the Trump era. Trump and his people are degrading our language, calling into question the very meaning of truth, corrupting our very thought processes with gaslighting, equivocation, and moral relativism.
My little theft from New Seasons may have made just an infinitesmal impact, but it was a corrosive one. I don’t want to, in my tiny way, contribute to the corrosion of our society, the degradation of our honor with one another, or the nibbling away at institutions like a pleasant natural foods store in my home town. Grabbing a stir fry for free (and, as the Buddhists say, taking what is not given) is not equivalent to Wall Street insider trading or international currency manipulation but it’s somewhere on that continuum. I don’t want to reinforce a world without honor in my little way. So when I returned to New Seasons, I bought myself another stir fry and paid for two of them.
Thank you, Cannabis.