How do you feel when you are hungry? Do you get quiet, impatient, how well can you focus? Sitting in class with my trivial hunger sitting deep in my stomach, I had a hard time relaxing, focusing. I found my thoughts wandering to what I was going to eat for lunch. Contemplating hunger in class was very powerful because I realized that any hunger I have felt in my life is insignificant compared to people who do not know where their next meal is coming from. How many times have you looked at the food in your fridge and thought, ‘there is nothing to eat’? This practice kept me in touch with the immense privilege I have of being able to walk a few blocks and have healthy food fingertips as well as the money to buy them. It made me conscious of the people in developing countries and ones that grew up in my same town who experience hunger regularly.
This contemplative practice made me feel some anger toward the thought that poverty is a result of laziness or lack of education. There may be plenty of education opportunities or motivated people in a community, but if people do not have the resources to feed themselves and are constantly hungry it becomes hard to think about anything else except where they might find food. This took me back to Amartya Sen’s discussion of hunger and the suggestion of democracy as a way to bring people out of poverty. How can a democracy function if the citizens are hungry to the point where all of their energy and resources must be focused on finding their next meal? There must be some sort of baseline standard of human wellbeing before a democracy will be able to be successful.