Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Time to Climb the Steps

I’ve noticed myself getting a bit strident and judgmental lately, both in conversations and online and I don’t like it. Moreover, it is stupid. It doesn’t achieve anything except to alienate people.

Oops! Time to climb the steps to where I can get a better view.

Yes, I know the world around me is achingly beautiful and it makes me burst into tears every time I think about how we are poised on the edge of ecological collapse - a crisis every bit as devastating as the one that wiped out the dinosaurs and extinguished more than 90% of the life forms existing at that time. I know that there almost certainly are no ‘techno-fixes’, since every techno-fix we have ever tried has created its own problems. I know that our human numbers are expanding exponentially and using up far more resources than the planet can possibly accommodate. So unless some powerful virus comes along to cull us, we are probably going to destroy the living tissue of our planet altogether, just the way cancer eventually kills its host. And that is incredibly, heartbreakingly sad.

I know that the only hope of avoiding this is for every single human being on the Earth who is using more than his or her fair share of resources (and that is most of us in the West) to scale down, stop consuming non-essentials, reduce, re-use, repair, recycle, and simplify, simplify, simplify …

Yes I know all that – only too well. That’s why I try to reduce the size of my own eco-footprint. It is why I wrote The Lilypad List: 7 steps to the simple life, in the hope of gently encouraging others to do the same. And telling them how much more joy and delight there really truly is in a life of voluntary simplicity than there is in a life of consumerism.

But ‘gently encouraging’ is the operative phrase here. In that book I didn’t harangue people. I didn’t lecture them or preach at them. I didn’t get cross or impatient with them. Because I understood – and still do – how hard it can be to make changes to the way we are used to living.

After all, I am not blameless, by any means. I feel guilty, often, about the amount of carbon I use to travel, even if it is mostly to see loved ones. For flying is one of the most ecologically damaging things humans do. So I have no right whatsoever to walk around being all self-righteous. No right to preach.

I really do know that scaling down can be hard – or can even feel impossible sometimes.

I know that when I get all strident and judgmental it simply puts people off. In other words, it is counter-productive. That’s why I shouldn’t do it, no matter how impatient I feel, no matter how urgent the problem is, no matter how risky it is that so many people are still fiddling while Rome burns, while the Greenland icecap melts much, must faster than anyone thought it would, while the oil is fast running out.

What I need to remember is this: life in some form may well go on, even if we don’t. After all, it survived the cataclysmic changes that wiped out the dinosaurs. The life force is strong. Evolution is a long-term project and will probably go on regardless. Humans may have been just a blip, anyway. The Earth will do even better, I expect, without us to mess things up. This is the Big Picture.

When I remember to climb the steps to where I can start to see the Big Picture, I immediately feel myself calming down. Whatever happens is OK.

Once I get to that point, all the stridency just melts away.
(Note to self: must do that more often. Like every day).

Oh I can still talk about simplicity and all of that. But gently.


3 moons said...


I happened across your blog a few days ago, and I am so glad I did. I have enjoyed reading your posts. Very insightful, inspiring, passionate, and honest.


Tess said...

Oh, my dear Marian. The down side of your Enneagram One space has been making itself felt, methinks...
You're right, of course, gentleness is the answer. And it's a bit like non-violence - even if the end result is the same, the journey was the right one.
Good luck climbing those stairs!

Elderwoman said...

Yes, Tess. Spot on!!
A definite descent to at least Level Four, I'm afraid.

Anonymous said...

I've just finished A New Earth by Eckhardt Tolle. I love that he says our inner selves( and the ability to become conscious) are every bit as important in changing the world as those who are actively/outwardly working to make changes to save the planet. We need both types. Our ability to live consciously affects others, facilitating the shift that will be required to save us.
Don't despair!

Elderwoman said...

You are right of course, Sara. It's exactly what I tell other people, but I have trouble remembering it myself sometimes!

One Woman's Journey said...

Thank you for your words of encouragement and making me smile
You are an inspiration to me.
Have a great day.

Fabulously40 said...

Thank you for such an inspiring post.

hele said...

Your post touched my heart.

PEACE said...

I just found your blog and am so excited. My husband is very big on the "simplify" philosophy. I am a big nature lover, but also find it difficult at times to give up some luxuries like my car.

I love your post about not preaching, but taking a gentle approach.

I live in Las Vegas, it's hot and almost impossible to grow a garden. I try. I get basil and sometimes tomatoes and zuccinni. We have moved to a much smaller house, are a one car family and hope to retire in a small town where everything is in walking distance.

I love that with the exception of my kids and grandkids that I know I would leave behind. I know that would be the most difficult thing for me of all.

Thank you for a wonderful blog, I will look very forward to visiting your blog on a regular basis.

Peace and Love.

Eva said...

Don't forget the most important "R" refuse. Refuse to use, refuse to buy, refuse to accept....

Beverly said...

I have missed you. I need to read earlier posts, because I cannot imagine you being anything by gentle.

i will try to visit more, you always make me love the earth more.

LadyLuz said...

Loved your post, Marian - so honest, so human.

Quiet said...

I've just discovered your blog as well and admired this post. It was shocking to me when I realised how judgemental I was - much worse than you, I suspect. I seemed to be polarized at times - complete openness to quick judgement - but now I seem to be finding some balance.

I've bookmarked your blog and will go read some more. Was interested to find that you have spent some time in Australia. Australian women are difficult to find in the blogging world. At least those who share in this way.

Many blessings.