No, I am not a Dumpster diver, though I think it is probably a valuable practice ecologically and economically. My goal here is not to champion the practice, but to bring your attention to a wonderful writer. A wonderful writer who wrote a wonderful essay On Dumpster Diving.
The writer is Lars Eighner. The book is Travels with Lizbeth. This book attracted a lot of attention when it came out in the early 90s. Eighner was homeless for several years and the book chronicles this time. Until recently, I thought that this was one of the many books that is soon forgotten after publication. I see so many almost new books in thrift stores, which is where I got my copy of Travels: novels and non-fiction works only a few years old. No one wants them even for $1.00 or less. So much work! So many hopes and dreams! So many good writers!
As it turns out, Eighner's essay has found a place in American culture. One of my colleagues informed me that it is included in many anthologies used in college writing courses. A quick romp through the internet confirmed this; there are numerous sites offering papers to plagiarize for your college course. You can even find a Marxist analysis.
I like the way that Eighner discovers in Dumpster diving a sense of abundance, indeed, of over-abundance. This is a useful reminder for me. I get the same sense at thrift stores, which, for me, serve paradoxically both to protect against and to promote accumulation. Here is the end of Eighner's essay, which is informative, analytical, and meditative:
I find from the experience of scavenging two rather deep lessons. The first is to take what you can use and let the rest go by. . . . I was shocked to realize that some things are not worth acquiring, but now I think it is so. Some material things are white elephants that eat up the possessor's substance. The second lesson is the transience of material being.
Anyway, I find my desire to grab for the gaudy bauble has been largely sated. I think this is an attitude I share with the very wealthy--we both know there is plenty more where what we have came from. Between us are the rat-race millions who nightly scavenge the cable channels looking for they know not what.
I am sorry for them.
Isn't that great, Dear Readers? Do you think these are valid lessons?