The Shopping List

A remarkable scrap of writing came my way when I was at the supermarket. In the stack of  hand baskets at the entrance I saw a folded scrap of paper. It was someone’s shopping list and being a voyeur of other people’s choices, I opened it.

On one side was a list: Cheese, yeast, flour, pepper, canned mushrooms, 2 yogurts, and meade. This was vaguely interesting, especially the part about meade, which I assume was an overly enthusiastic spelling of mead, honey wine. The yeast and flour suggested a person who likes to cook from scratch.

All well and good, but on the other side I learned so much more. There, written with the same pen but in a more flowing half-cursive script was this sentence:

“I was just thinking about how much I love this existence.”

Holy transcendence, Batman!

“Take note of me”, this note proclaimed. “But don’t over think me.” And we won’t. But we will pay due attention to its three parts.

“I was just thinking” — A momentary pause, an idea that flies into your head and interrupts whatever else was going on. Not in a jolting way, but strong and insistent all the same.

“How much I love” — A fullness, an abundance of a good feelings, an upswell of contentment.

Found in a supermarket basket. Proof that it pays to be nosy.

Found in a supermarket basket. Proof that it pays to be nosy.

“This existence” — An interesting choice. It is both expansive and but a point in time. Anything, thinking and non-thinking, can exist. Existence isn’t a quality of sentience. It is a quality of being. Molecules exist for millions of years, we are made of molecules and so in some impersonal fashion, we exist for the long haul. But the only moment of existence we can count on for ourselves – this particular configuration of molecules — is this one, the one happening right now.

Taken together, the three elements hand us this: A sudden sensation of contentment with simply being.

This sensation was captured and left behind at the grocery store like a message in a bottle that washed up on the shore for the lucky beachcomber. But that’s not quite apt because there’s no indication the writer ever meant to send anything to anyone and understanding this only adds to the pleasure this note provides.

The words were written on a piece of scrap paper. A feeling came over the writer, a feeling strong enough that she wanted to give it voice and so she wrote it down. But the only person who reads it is her. This is important. By writing the words, they stand outside of her and she can read them as things that exist in their own right. We confer an independent strength to ideas when we put them into words. Looking at them, we feel their power, and this is what she did. I imagine her satisfaction.

Then she left them behind. Also important. They had served their purpose, just as the shopping list had reminded her of what she needed to buy. “Did you find everything you were looking for,” the checkout clerk would have asked?

“Yes,” she replied.

Flour, yeast, mead and contentment. The contentment was on special, more within our reach than we might think. That is what I found in that basket.

~Jon

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