My eleven year left for the first day of school an hour ago. She was well rested and waiting eagerly for the carpool ten minutes before it arrived. Maybe she’s more interested in seeing her friends again than exploring new frontiers in learning? It is ever difficult to probe the minds of others and assume you know what they are thinking. Beginner’s mind is a rare and precious commodity in the auto-pilot mindset that often dominates our lives in this day and age.
As an acupuncturist, I am afforded a clear vantage point on the pressures that people endure – navigating the boatload of personal and professional goals down a life-river filled with health challenges, disappointments, and money stresses, all leading to the big plunge into the abyss beyond this mortal life. All of us accept death on some level, except we never think that it might come today.
Meanwhile, according to an increasing number of people observing large scale social and environmental trends on our planet, we are at or beyond the point of sustainability for the future of life on the planet. Our economic system worships growth and infinite consumption. Yet this small blue marble floating in space, with its sliver of atmosphere, drop of clean, fresh water, and diminishing zone of arable land, is most certainly finite.
Over the last few days, I conducted some informal research on the psychological bandwidth of modern humans while passing out flyers in front of my local food co-op. The issue – the fallacy of the smart grid – admittedly, is not one that most people consider of any urgency or even relevance to their lives.
Typical interaction: Me: Wearing clean clothes with no holes, recent haircut, big smile, warm engaging energy, holding a homemade sign with a hand folded origami peace crane taped to one corner, standing well away from the exit door, giving shoppers plenty of physical space, but not shrinking from contact, clearly reaching out with positive intent, one hand casually extended, holding a quarter page flyer: “Hi, would you like to learn more about the smart grid and how it will affect you?” Shopper: Silence, no eye contact, walks by briskly without breaking stride or acknowledging my presence. At other times, I shortened my opening line: “Hi would you like to learn more about this?” or even more in the vein of standup poetry and street theater: “Hi, may I offer you a little awareness?” Sometimes a conversation, a smile, or an extended hand in return, accepting a flyer.
We are all busy people and for all I know, every one of those people who breezed past me in a hurry was rushing off to work on strategies to build the architecture of a co-operative economy that will restore balance once the Wall Street capitalist greed orgy finally crashes. More likely, they were on a lunch break and had to rush back to work in order to pay the bills, or to take care of a child. Perhaps I would have been more successful if I had employed Com Ed’s marketing strategy of handing out free ice cream to their utility customers as a way of softening up resistance to their message.
Even if most people are content (for now) to live in their bubble, trusting that government and corporations will exercise wise stewardship over the finite resources of planet Earth, it’s clear that our days are numbered. The awesome horizon line called (individual) death draws nearer with each passing breath. Whether we can stop the death of the planet is another question that each of us is free to contemplate or not, though our children may someday ask us what we did when there was still a chance to reverse the destruction.
We need both hope and personal action. There is always hope in the goodness of human beings, in believing that we can learn to care about others (including animals, insects and all life forms) as much or even more than ourselves. But hope alone is of little help. We must lead by example, inspiring others through our actions. Even when it appears that everyone is in lock step to the mantra of dollars and personal pleasure, we must not be afraid to break ranks and even to endure ridicule in standing for truth. If we make that choice, others will be sure to follow.