Hinterland, Week Two: Bread is the opposite of complacency
At the end of 2016 I was sitting on Tori’s couch trying to verbalize a thing I knew but didn’t know how to say.
There was this slightly-panicked feeling that had been gaining momentum in recent months, and it picked up a lot of steam during a day-long road trip through Niger in November. I was sitting in the back of a Land Cruiser watching people on the road in the desert—people who have nothing, people who have some things, people who laugh, people who yell, people whose entire day revolves around finding food or water—and I just kept thinking… what am I doing? What in the actual heck am I doing with my life?
This sounds like one of those Come To Jesus revelations people have when they see poverty for the first time, but it wasn’t that. There are many forms of poverty, not just the kind that demands to be noticed when the people you see right in front of you are literally struggling to survive. It was something more akin to a prodding question mark or one of those massively annoying Facebook pokes.
Why do I have so much? And what am I doing with it?
So that night in December on Tori’s couch as we talked about what we hoped for in the new year ahead, all I could articulate was that I wanted something to change. My life felt too comfortable. It was at the very least too known—for the most part, I knew how all of my needs would be met, and I wasn’t sure what was so unsatisfying about that.
There were no significant answers that night. There weren’t any in the months that followed, either, even though all of the same feelings continued to simmer. In June, when I realized the “new year” was already halfway over, I set up camp at a park to untangle all of my thoughts by writing them down and finally arrived at a word: complacent.
Complacent: to be satisfied with something that does not deserve satisfaction, to be apathetic toward dangers or deficiencies.
That was it entirely. I felt like I had become complacent about my life as a whole, particularly about the danger of being a person who is a middle-class white American and a person who follows Jesus. This is a position that feels “safe” from many perceived dangers—hunger, thirst, economic poverty—but if I’m understanding Jesus correctly, there are few things quite as dangerous as being a rich person. And despite the fact that I’ve spent my post-collegiate career making as little money as possible, I’m still rich in resources, rich in education, rich in social standing, rich in my ability to pay bills and still have money left over to buy a fancy hand mixer from Amazon. (That absolutely happened this week. We’ll talk about it later.)
I’m a rich person, and I fear I’ve been complacent about that.
I still don’t have the answers. I’m not bold enough to think I’ll arrive at them within two weeks of stepping back from “normal” life, but stepping back was an important step in the process for me.
A second important step: spending three mornings a week baking bread.
When I decided to embrace Hinterland, I knew one of the most critical components would be living simply—dialing everything back to see what is essential and what is superfluous. Few things sound as back-to-the-basics as getting up before the sun to shape dough into loaves of bread, so when my friends graciously offered me an opportunity to do just that at their cafe, it felt like a perfect fit.
I started on Tuesday. I love it so much. I mean… I made these! People came into the cafe and ate these!
If last week was like stumbling through the dark, this week was like watching the sun rise. I feel hopeful and really, really happy.
I’m still rich. I still don’t have an answer for how to distribute my wealth wisely. But at least for this week, these little loaves feel like the opposite of complacency, and I’m thankful for that.
If this concept had a soundtrack, it would be this song from Will Reagan. It’s been on repeat a lot lately and has officially been added to the Hinterland playlist, along with a handful of other songs this week.