week 03: come together

I must say, this week was incredible.

At the onset, driving through Houston, I felt small and insignificant. The city sprawl was a reminder of the immense number of people living there, still only a minute fraction of those that populate the globe. Glances out the window fed the little voice in the back of my mind suggesting that my ideas & efforts do not matter and will not amount to anything. A drive down stretches of highway lined with oil refineries was a reminder of where the resources I use originate, and of the communities located in the surrounding areas that indirectly experience the effects of my decisions. Don’t get me wrong, I loved visiting Houston, but time spent taking in this new, foreign place did lead to a few moments of near paralyzing examination.

However, I concluded the week as one of millions standing united as part of the series of Women’s March on Washington events worldwide. Though one of many, my presence among such crowds did not generate a feeling of insignificance, but instead one of empowerment. If so many people of different backgrounds & beliefs could come together to recognize similarities and cultivate empathy, perhaps more than I imagined is possible. Every single person who participated was present as the result of individual initiative or action (save some small children, I suppose), meaning that the power of millions is provided through the culmination of countless single efforts. And that sure is something.

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I was proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with so many engaged women & men, and I value the conversations had before, during, and after. I left feeling further motivated to continue to critically evaluate my habits and make small changes in my own life that could, directly or indirectly, lift up others. If those who came out recognize this convergence as a beginning, then I feel we can approach the next season with a little more confidence and optimism.

On the consumerism front, here’s what all went down:

Plus:

  • I finally made yogurt & was blown away by the results. More to come on this, but I’ll say here that it tasted great & was incredibly easy. While making yogurt takes a fair amount of time, very little is active time – the rest is heating, cooling, and straining. I ended up borrowing a thermometer from a friend, which I should have done in the first place. So yes, after all that trouble, mine didn’t work. Sigh. Moving forward, I hope to make this part of my routine.
  • Let’s hear it for carpools! Five of us piled in to Hannah’s sedan to make the drive up to the Women’s March in DC. Though planning was a little hectic, things fell into place at the last minute and the drives included some great company & conversation. With all the driving I’ve put in this last month, I rested easier knowing that together we saved on gas & simultaneously provided an opportunity for a few friends to get to experience history.

Delta:

  • When it comes to single-use items, like take-out boxes and packaging, travel is tainted. Same with lunch workshops & community meals. Perhaps I am becoming more sensitive to the amount of packaging I encounter on a regular basis, but on-the-go meals and snacks that are part of being on the road sure generate a lot of unnecessary waste. Moving forward, it could be wise to carry a collapsible cup or plate when possible for certain occasions. Not trying to go overboard here, but if I continue to find myself tossing out plates & cups all the time (well, not “all the time” but too often, in my opinion) it would be well worth the funny looks.
  • This week has been bookended by travel, and January has involved more time out of Raleigh than probably any other month in the last year. I’m ready to settle into a routine and spend some time checking out local shops & trying out some new recipes in my (likely evaporating) free time.

Did any of you encounter something especially motivating this week?

Week-To-Week is a series consisting of reflections on purchases & daily events condensed on a weekly basis

 

why bother?

Part of putting thoughts into writing is the fact that the expression of ideas breathes life into them. No longer confined to one’s mind, they have been made available for discussion and critique. While I’m not afraid of critique – it is both healthy and necessary – I find myself concerned that those who read what I write here, particularly people I know, will simply think “why?”.

The last thing I want is for my objective to be infantilized or patronized, implying my goals are “cute” or “silly”, or my efforts futile. Perhaps those who ask why may be thinking “why go through all this trouble?” or “why turn from habits and patterns that have been established to make our lives arguably easier and more efficient?”, both of which are valid questions. But I will admit, I am scared of the why-question because, superficially, I think it implies some kind of selfishness. It could imply that perhaps I am trying to change my actions to shift blame or guilt associated with my consumption and point fingers elsewhere. While I want to take better responsibility for my actions and prompt others to consider theirs, I by no means want to cast a cloud of guilt on readers that don’t share my perspectives or objectives.

So, to those questions I have this to say:

  1. “Why” is a question with an ever-evolving answer. I hope that the accumulation of what I address here continues to speak to why I think it is important to not passively consume. Consider joining me, even if that means reading only at this point.
  2. I could respond with my own question (admittedly borrowed from Thoreau via Wendell Berry): why should anyone wait to do what is right until everybody does it? I don’t need the blessing or permission of others  to change my habits and act in a way that I see fit – ideally better for myself and others. You don’t have to wait either. So once again, consider joining me, even if that means reading only at this point.

I understand the need to think big, to make a different through changes in our energy grid, to build smarter, to demand sweeping change from our leaders. I see how that perspective may render my efforts ineffectual. But these large scale problems grow out of the additive effect of small scale causes. An engine doesn’t suddenly improve its function because we implore it to, but when each component is attended to, maintained, and replaced as needed.

I can worry and whine about the prospective damaging changes that may be on the horizon on the eve of our presidential transition – I have and I will. But I am doing this to tackle a problem I see at its source – our individual lives – the best way I know how:by critically evaluating and making changes.

So why bother? Simply because I should, and because I can. And if I can, perhaps others can too.