In the book Walden by Henry David Thoreau we see a man who has looked past social norms and blazed his own path towards individual enlightenment. This is again illustrated in Lars Eighner’s essay, On Dumpster Diving. Here we see an individual that practices something that most of us would deem unsafe and weird behavior and then again our perceptions of what is correct behavior come into play. Both of these pieces illustrate that there are things that we perceive in our daily lives that may not be as concrete as we think that they are. In Lars Eighner’s essay we learn that Eighner has had a fascination with dumpsters and when he fell on hard times he turned to them as a source of sustenance. In his essay he explains the logistics of how to survive and how to even eat out of dumpsters.
This challenges conventional wisdom and perception of what is an acceptable way of supporting yourself. In the piece it is stated that you can find a lot things in dumpsters. Many things are carelessly discarded while they are still good and useful. Food, clothing, electronics, etc. are some of the things that can be found in dumpsters. These dumpsters act as a window into the lives of many.
By understanding what they throw away a intelligent “scavenger” can piece together what is happen. . not being spent on something of real importance. Both works share one come theme of social perceptions causing the waste of valuable commodities. RuPaul once said, “Were born naked; and the rest is drag”. This illustrates how social perceptions can color our thought process much like Thoreau and Eighner were illustrating in their works.
The duo believed that waste stemmed from social perceptions. If something was perceived as a waste it was cast off. If something was perceived as unimportant it was cast off. If something was perceived as odd or not fitting in it was cast off without a second glance. Waste stems from perceived truths and it is these perceived truths that are the lie. Perception is something that shapes our world and drives our culture.
Thoreau and Eighner were trying to explain in their works that waste is not useful because we perceive it that way.