What do you think of when you hear the phrase “FREE LUNCH” ?
Most people would have a degree of disbelief in the claim but why? Are we so jaded that the idea of complimentary sustenance cannot be accepted into our cultural reality? Or maybe we’re realists and know that unless it’s bad advice nothing in this world lacks some sort of price tag?
The age old adage “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch” has many variants but the underlying idea remains the same : it is literally impossible to receive goods, services or even abstract products for nothing. The true origin of the phrase is unknown but you can surely trace it’s rising use in early American bars offering salty foods to any patron who purchased a single drink. Simple alchemy here folks : the drinks will likely be expensive and the salt in the food makes you thirsty.
The phrase is also a general statement on any functional society, isn’t it? Work and know the benefits. Expect something for free? You’ll get nothing here, chum.
Let’s leave the conceptual and historic ( you can easily pour yourself a libation and read up on those angles at length elsewhere ) to the experts and dive into a more interesting angle : is the sun a “FREE LUNCH” ?
Now I’m no Carl Sagan but I know a thing or two about the mass of incandescent gas, the nuclear furnace we call “The Sun.”
The Sun’s free right? And the energy from said sun doesn’t cost us a dime. Organisms on earth like plants have found a way to take that delicious sunshine and make it into the botanical equivalent of grilled cheese and tomato soup. The natural world before currencies and labor systems was doing damn fine providing a “free lunch” for just about every living creature trundling on this dirt ball.
That’s not a very popular opinion here at P.I.P. but as Chief Editor I have a certain degree of latitude. The valuation of products and services is the life blood of any member of this think tank but there is always similar value in allowing “the other” to invade the mind occasionally and see things from a separate soapbox.
There’s your wind up: maybe the natural world had it’s own kind of “economy” and we just came along with inferior copies.
The next time you’re sampling some gratis legumes at your local watering hole remember that the high content of NaCl tumbling down into your stomach is going to have the desired effect of causing you to purchase and imbibe more overpriced beverages.
And maybe take your pilsner, spritzer or grog out on the patio (if they have one) and let the sun shine a bit on your face (if it is indeed out from behind the clouds) and give it a whimsical wonder : maybe there WAS a Free Lunch….
….but we’re damn glad there isn’t now.