Friday, November 02, 2007

"Live Simply So Others Can Simply Live"

Live simply so others can simply live. I saw a poster with this sentiment, illustrated by a series of quiet drawings, that is haunting me. The drawings are almost all of things or activities that satisfy me deeply: a barn swallow flying, an open window with a plant on the sill, a pad of paper and pencils, a piece of fruit hanging on a tree, a guitar in a corner, a book with glasses laid on top of it, a bowl of steaming hot cereal, needle & thread & scissors ready to mend something, fresh baked bread on a cutting board with a knife beside it, a wheelbarrow with garden tools, a dandelion with a bee about to land on it.... Symbols, to me, of a quietly satisfying and deeply peaceful life.

Translating that "quietly satisfying and deeply peaceful life" vision into reality is turning out to be surprisingly hard for me. For example, Prairiewolf and I had a meeting with a home remodeler the other day. My desire for a "nice" kitchen is sharply warring with my "better" self, who wants to avoid waste by making do with what we have. After all, what we have is perfectly functional, just very tacky by current standards.

Live simply so others can simply live.

On NPR this morning, I heard a preview of today's Science Friday program, saying that atmospheric CO2 levels are increasing even faster than scientists have been predicting. (The broadcast is at 1 p.m., so I'm going to try to remember to listen to it.) Every bit of energy I use, every item I buy is helping to contribute to those CO2 levels.

Live simply so others can simply live. What is my personal responsibility in this issue? Where do I draw my personal balance line? This influences my life in so many ways, from driving to clothes to volunteering to food consumption to remodeling our home to...topics of conversation between friends. In voluntarily simplifying, am I living by my ideals or unnecessarily restricting myself? Am I cutting myself off from "normal" society by simplifying?

Why does it feel like trying to live a simple life these days is so isolating? It seems like I ought to have more time to talk with and connect to others, but I find it hard to join in many of the conversations: "Look at this $500 purse I got for $250! I am so excited! I've been wanting one of these FOREVER!" or "We're going on a Caribbean cruise next month. We go at least once a year, and it's SO MUCH fun! Why don't you guys take a cruise with us?" I could care less about unnecessary, expensive purses or self indulgent cruises to nowhere with 3000 of your "best friends" crammed alongside you, but if I say so, the conversation comes to a crashing halt. Somehow, not caring about such things makes me weird and unAmerican, as does being interested in the environment or in affordable healthcare or in true education.

Do I have to travel a lot, drive a gas-guzzling SUV, love to shop for entertainment, wear classy or cute (i.e. relatively new) clothes, and live in an upscale house to be "worthy" in the United States? A lot of times it feels that way.

Live simply so others can simply live. It sounds so easy, but I'm really struggling with it.

Often I question myself as to why these sorts of ideals are so important to me. Why should I care? Why can't I just put this concept, and others like it, out of my head as "idealistic hogwash" and get on with "real life"? It seems like everybody else does, even those who think of themselves as quite religious.

I don't know the answer to those questions. I just know that this "idealistic hogwash" IS very important to me and to my life...and if I get labeled as slightly crazy? Well, there are worse things to be called. (Ironically, it's the "unworthy" label that bothers me more than the "slightly crazy" label.)

So I stumble through each day, making the proverbial mountains out of what other people consider to be molehills. Isn't it ironic that I welcome actual molehills in my yard (24/7 grub patrol!) while most people seem to consider them mountainous mounds of evil to be fought with the most toxic arsenal they can command?!


dejavaboom said...

I so relate to this post! Consider yourself fortunate; most of the people I am around are late teen juco students who are consumed with overcomsumption. Conversations with them are all-too-often about nightlife and television.

I also grapple with ideals versus ground-checked reality. People say my head's in the clouds, that my aspirations need shelved...but like you, Gaia, I just can't let it go.

The difference between us is that you are much better at putting your philosophies and convictions into practice. I learn from you at every read. Keep the faith. You ARE worthy of this mision of simple conscientious living.

Gaia gardener said...

Thank you so much for your kind comments, but I don't feel like I deserve them at all. I try hard, but I'm afraid I fall far short of my ideals.

Maybe that's just human nature, though. (At least I HOPE that's the case. It leaves me some wriggle room...and some hope!)