Over the weekend I went to Washington Square Park to read, so I was there for a couple hours. It was a beautiful, sunny day. Bright and just hot enough that you’d want to avoid the sun but not so hot that you couldn’t stand it.
A guy sat on a bench diagonally across from me with a cup of ice cream from a nearby store. Besides him, I would guess at least three-quarters of the people there brought something disposable. Litter blew everywhere in the breeze, but everyone’s collective behavior isn’t my point.
He stuck the plastic disposable spoon into the ice cream and scooped out all the spoon could hold—a dollop close to the size of a ping pong ball. He put the whole amount in his mouth and within three seconds swallowed the whole amount. How did I know he swallowed it all? Because he refilled the spoon and put another full dollop in his mouth. He continued to repeat the act until he finished the cup with no meaningful variation.
The volume and speed he ate allowed no appreciation of nuance, subtlety, or complexity. No joy or satisfaction. No attempt at any of these things, nor sign that anything beyond the base, animal, fleeting sensory pleasure of sugar and fat sliding down his throat.
After he finished, he continued sitting for at least ten minutes, so nothing prevented him from savoring and appreciating. He just stuffed his face.
I’ve written about the heroin users in the northwest corner of the park, maybe twenty yards from where we sat. I didn’t see this man any less addicted to sugar and fat, only to something sadly legal. As with them, I see the descent into addiction coming in large part from a culture that promotes disparities in access to resources, among other things, leading to neediness, dependency, ignorance, and such. It’s not obvious the plant extracts in the ice cream like all that sugar should be any more legal than the plant extracts of cocaine or heroin. I don’t know if they should be legal or illegal, but I see reasons for government to treat them similarly.
What Have We Come To?
Maybe other societies are like ours. In any case, ours has people suffering as I saw, devoid of support or hope. Maybe we’ve always been this way.
How did we get this way? How can those who want to to change back? I don’t see how most of us differ with our air conditioning, bottled water, takeout, wanton flying, and so on. Manufacturers learned how to addict people and now people are addicted.
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