Producers want to give consumers comfort their food is fresh and safe to eat, they label perishables (i.e., milk, cheese, meat, eggs, etc.) with best-before-dates.
Governments want to keep us safe and disease-free. Throughout the supermarket – packaged, canned, and frozen goods – have more distant best-before dates because they are well sealed, and contain salt and chemical preservatives. It is not a ‘spoiled’ signal; instead, it is a clear important reminder that consuming before that date is best. Keeping it longer, a dodgy proposition, and anyone who swallows a mouthful of stale milk knows that.
We keep things until we don’t need them anymore.
We know this with food.
We understand too – when spring closet purges always yield bags of barely worn things which don’t fit, went out of style, or just bore us: they go into the charity bin.
Once upon a youthful time, we were fresh and unspoiled. Have we passed through our best-before-date, or under-ripened, still needing time to grow, to mature?
What do we hold close, keep too long, still using long after we’ve soured on their value – what should we discard?
What are you holding onto, which is due to be discarded?
Any friends, customers, or suppliers – how about ideas and belief systems?
These are all perishable, but how often do we check for a best-before-date?
We don’t because we take these views and connections as safe to know, use, and consume.
They aren’t guaranteed.
They never were.
What we look for is what we see, or we see only what we are looking for, missing nearly everything else.
We count on things we ought not to be so confident about (retirement plans, job security, the survival of a business). Closer to home, personal relationships with friends and family.
And, the ultimate relationship: we maintain with ourselves.