Let’s pretend for a moment.
You and I are having a conversation, a pretty thorough debate really. It’s been a drawn-out and long-winded argument. It’s pushed and pulled at both of us for some time. We both firmly think that our own position is either the best, correct, most ideal, harshest, gentlest, most beautiful, most intestinally disruptive form of wretched, or of some category in-between.
The topic doesn’t matter. There’s no reason to worry about this thing that has us entangled furiously in a battle that’s (I can only dream) full of wit, grandeur and — dare I say — respect. It just seems like one of those exchanges that won’t die.
But soon it happens. As we tumble about attempting to pin one another in our confusion, from somewhere, something clunks about in the back of your psyche and you see it all too clearly:
You are wrong. Dead wrong. Absolutely, positively, wish-to-slink-away-and-bury-the-last-bit-of-your-sanctity-wrong.
It eviscerates the last of your confidence.
What do you do? What does a respectable person do?
If you and I have any one bit of molecular equivalence, any slight inkling toward some similarity in pristine character, any bit of interconnectedness, I hope we could agree that the hypothetical “you” in our story would admit fault.
In life, I certainly did.
Do we all fall so easily? No. Regrettably, all too recently I saw such an error in my own life. I began to realize many things. I began to notice peculiar trends. I saw a lot of what really just looked to me to be silliness.
For such a long time, I was part of this goofy culture in which the world’s trapped. Hell, I still am — maybe always will be to an extent. But I couldn’t help but think I was making a lot of wrong decisions, things that really didn’t do a lot of good.
As a result, I started to feel a certain guilt that lingered with me. New fixations had my head reeling: climate issues, excessive waste, the decline of real business that didn’t just look at profits, deforestation, animal abuse and rights issues, racism, sexism — you name the “-ism” and I was worrying (maybe not nepotism — don’t really care for my family that much) — clean energy, toxicity and nuclear prevalence.
In other words, a whole bag of fun. It seemed that everywhere I turned some tenant of my life was shot down as “wrong.”
Meat you say? Nope, too vile, dangerous, unhealthy and wasteful of an industry.
Plastics, you jest? Nope, too difficult to recycle and just plain dangerous to use in the first place.
Tissues? Why not just go cut down a tree and wipe your snot on it, sinner?
Geez, it seemed like living the right way would be impossible. I’ve begun doing some even goofier things for the sake of saving an already goofy system.
Things are certainly rough, though, and I’ll be first to say just how tempting laziness really can appear.
As I prepare myself to launch off in a torrential downpour, heading to my destination using my wonder machine, my human-powered brand of auto (some simply call it a bicycle) because the vehicle as we know it is defunct, grimy and otherwise unpleasant, I find myself scrounging my otherwise ideal apartment and flip over the notion of just heating that leftover hamburger my flat mate broiled the evening before.
But I stop, regardless, and munch on some limp carrots unearthed from the produce drawer.
Sure, it isn’t always so hard. Some issues may never even be resolved. But there’s a lesson to be learned here amid this new, fractured lifestyle.
For the next few months, I want to take you with me as I try to buy locally, eat even more healthily, and get my life down to the bare essentials without simultaneously losing my grip on reality. I promise it will be fun, though.
Joseph Barbaree is a graduate student studying journalism. If you’re on the path of living the same lifestyle, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.