Yesterday I ran across some news that struck me profoundly. The first was a picture of an oil-soaked bird in the Gulf of Mexico http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=127482022. Then there was a post about an Prescott Arizona elementary school mural that is going to be “whitened” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/06/04/arizona-elementary-school-mural_n_601436.html. Last, a thought-provoking article in Mother Earth News discussing the morality of industrial agriculture (among other things) http://www.motherearthnews.com/nature-community/the-truth-about-vegetarianism.aspx
At first I became very sad and wondered how it could possibly be that we live in a world where such things happen, where people cap cop such attitudes. Why doesn’t somebody do something? Why don’t people see how wrong they are? Why are these mistakes made over and over?
Then my indignant and morally superior attitude hit me right back in the face. Want to change the world? Change yourself.
What these three articles have done is turn me completely inward to evaluate what role I have played in perpetuating a society that allows us to destroy ourselves and others without a backward glance. What is it about us that require one to be right and the other wrong? Why do we feel the need to bully each other or nature into submission? What genetically predisposes us to dominate, destroy, isolate, and control?
I think part of it has to do with our complete disengagement with community and family. We live an anonymous existence that allows us to write things on the Internet or hurl insults from a speeding car without any fear of retribution. We are free to air our hurts and hatreds, perhaps hoping that if we spew it from our bodies it will somehow heal us. Sort of like throwing trash on the ground; get rid of it and it’s no longer my problem. But it doesn’t heal, it doesn’t go away, it just gets worse.
I am not above all of this. I am part of the problem. These past years have not been fun for me and I now can see that the root of the problem has been inside me all along. The anger and viciousness I have hurled at others to express my dissatisfaction with life makes me no better than those people in Prescott. My assertion that other people have it easier than me and that I deserve better means I am just as greedy as BP oil trying to take shortcuts in order to make more money. My speechifying about my greater understanding of the food chain due to my agricultural background still sees me going to the grocery store for the bulk of my meals – despite what I claim to know.
Here is what I have learned. There is no Right. There is no One Way. There is only Me and what I do right Now. Want to change the world? Start right here, with me. Want people to treat me better? Start right here, with me. Think other people have it easier? I have a perfect example of an acquaintance that is wealthy and is one of the most miserable people I know. It’s better to be me with all my flaws and anemic bank accounts.
Here is what I am saying to myself. Live your life the best as you can with less. Grow as much of your own food as you can. Sew your own clothes or buy used. Drive less. Consume less – I mean, how many pairs of shoes do you need any way? Treat others with more kindness. Stop envying people you think have more. More is meaningless. Things don’t matter, they are just things. Stop trying to change other people; instead, be an example. Stop doing things that make you crazy. Stop hanging out with people that make you crazy. Seek a higher path instead of judging others.Wishing things were different will not make it so, becoming different will. Change the world one smile, one more vegetable garden inspired, one less mile driven, one less object bought at a time.
This I can do. So can you.