I’ve been doing some reading lately; reading of a particular kind. The books focus mainly on the story of humanity and they propose, in the main, alternative stories which may or may not be true. They’re certainly interesting and sound more plausible than the ones we currently have about ‘How Things Are’. But plausibility is no guarantee of authenticity.
One of these books rendered my mood distinctly pessimistic, with an overwhelming sense of impotence and ‘what-the-fuck’-ness; which is a very rational emotional and cognitive response to the stories that we collectively believe to be ‘true’ about ‘How Things Are’. This book, particularly, was:
(a) aiming to discredit and debunk, and
(b) present alternative stories which the author asserts are the ‘real’ stories about ‘How Things Are’.
I have no idea whether the stories the author proposes to be true, actually are (although he did print one piece of information that stunned me speechless with horror, but which I subsequently found out was incorrect). So, whilst you can do your own research into some issues, you are never going to get the whole story, and even if you did how would you know whether or not what you’re being told is ACTUALLY how it is?
Then I realised that it doesn’t actually matter whether or not the stories are true. It doesn’t matter how things GOT to be the way they are. It doesn’t matter whether humanity was created by god, is a result of the big bang, evolved from apes, was deposited on earth as an extra-terrestrial experiment. It really doesn’t matter WHAT the story says about how things got to be the way they are. What matters is what IS happening right now.
And what IS happening is that human-kind as a species is growing exponentially year on year and, as a species, is increasingly consuming. Not consuming enough just to exist or stay stable as a species, but consuming vastly and uncontrollably. And in so doing, using resources at a rate which will ensure that, at some point, those resources will be used up.
The fuels, minerals and metals will all be mined.
The trees will have all been cut down.
The land will be depleted and sterile.
The rivers and seas will be polluted and poisoned.
The other myriad species that live on earth will be extinct, except for those that we keep alive in controlled habitats.
We will be fucked. That’s not just a story; and it doesn’t matter whether anyone believes it to be THE TRUE story. It is actually happening. It IS reality.
And I’m not saying that consuming, per se, is wrong. We have to consume in order to live. It’s just what we consume and the way in which we do it.
And I’m not actually even saying that the way that we currently do it is wrong. It’s just not very clever. Unless of course the outcome you’re trying to achieve is a barren planet incapable of sustaining life. (Although I think it’s pretty likely that life will thrive again even on what we would see as a barren planet, since we’re all made of the same stuff – or non-stuff – according to how you see it.)
But if you don't think that would be a desirable outcome then to continue consuming in the way that we do is not a very smart methodology of ensuring that we as a species, and all the other species that we need to keep us going, will continue to thrive in a sustainable – and dare I say it - happy way.
Here's the thing though - it’s not ‘them’ doing it. It’s not ‘you’ doing it. It’s me. I am the one consuming. I am the one who wears clothes, and eats food, and uses soap and shampoo. Who sleeps in a bed and sits on a sofa. Who watches TV and uses a laptop and a kindle. Who speaks on a mobile phone and uses transport.
If everyone were to stop saying ‘they’ or ‘you’. And instead faced up to the fact that it’s ‘me’, then things might change to a more desirable outcome. Or they might not. But until each of us realise that ‘it’s me’ then we’ll go on abdicating responsibility and feeling impotent and useless and powerless. We’ll continue shrugging our shoulders and blaming governments and corporations, and secret societies, and bureaucracies and red tape, and presidents and politics and big business. Because it’s not them. It’s you. It’s me. We are they. I am them. Without me, they can’t be.
It is a truism that change starts with yourself. And the reason it’s a truism is well... because it’s true. The only change and the only difference you can make is by the actions that you take. Whatever they may be. Even if you decide that you actually don’t care that human-kind as a species eradicates itself and the world it lives in, with and on. At least you’ll be consciously owning up to the responsibility of the part that you play.
However, if you do decide that it matters, then it’s not going to change because ‘they’ do something about it. They might all be the ones that decide that it doesn’t matter. It will only change when you realise ‘it’s me’; until there’s enough ‘me’s’ to make a ‘they’. A ‘they’ that will have an impact on why things get done and how they get done.
And the changes don’t have to be big. You don’t have to save the world. I don’t have to save the world. You just have to do SOMETHING. The something that only YOU can do. Whatever it is.
And the way to start is by thinking about what it is you actually want, what actually matters to you. Then, when you’ve worked out what it is, have a look and see what part your actions play in going against the reality of what you want. Whether it’s eating food from a supermarket, buying too much stuff, not using your talents to help yourself and others, travelling too much, eating too much, bitching too much, designing crap buildings, selling shoddy, pointless merchandise, dumping your rubbish, ..... you fill in the blanks – they’re infinite and specific to you - which is the good news and the bad news. Because they’re specific to you, only you can do something about them. Which means of course, that once you’ve stopped thinking about what you want and how what you do prevents what you want from happening, you do actually have to do something.
You do actually have to do something.
I actually have to do something.
And then we’ll have a ‘they’ that are actually doing something. And it won’t be anyone else’s fault. And it won’t be anyone else’s mistake. And it won’t be anyone else providing the solution and making the change. It will be me and it will be you. Each one of us.
So if I were in the business of giving advice (and, generally, I’m not, because as someone once said about advice: “A wise man doesn’t need it, and a fool won’t take it”), then this is the only bit I feel is of any use:
Focus in, then give out.
Think about what matters to you. Think about what you want reality to be. Then take action. Do it. Make the changes that you can. Use your talent. Everyone has something that they’re good at. Everyone.
Whether it’s cooking, gardening, mathematics, hugging, encouraging, seeing the wood for the trees, abstaining, listening, talking, writing, coaching, being a terrible warning, typing, speaking out, recycling, designing, building, campaigning, performing... again you fill in the blank – again they’re infinite and specific to you.
Find that thing, or things, that you do well, keep doing it or them, and see what happens. And you don’t have to be great at them. And they don’t have to be big things. You don’t have to be the best painter, or the greatest architect or designer, or the kindest or most loving person, or the best writer. You just need to be good enough to do it, and to keep doing it, until you become the best you can at it.
So, do it for yourself and then do it for those that can’t. I have a very firm conviction that if you do whatever it is you’re good for and do it for those that can’t, then it transforms. Not all the time, and in all ways. But enough to be life-changing and to give meaning and purpose. To forge connections and, yes, to make a difference. And I’m not talking about forming a movement, or a group or a new world view, or society. Change doesn’t really happen like that. It happens in small, incremental ways by people doing what they do best, as often as they can.
It just depends what it is we want to be different, and in what way.....
And THAT is up to me..... isn't it?