Of course, I don’t really believe that the world is going to end this Friday. That would be too easy. The damage we are doing to life on planet Earth is a slower process and one that has the potential to cause much more prolonged suffering. And as I sit here typing sentences and then deleting them, typing and deleting, trying to figure out how to express what I’m feeling, I’m unsure if a post like this is even appropriate. But here goes.
A lot of really terrible things have been happening lately. Every other day brings news of robberies and muggings and even shootings — both random and targeted — in my Oakland, CA neighborhood so that I’m often too afraid to leave the house. And with the horrific news on Friday of the mass killings of little children in Connecticut, a terrible thought crosses my mind: What’s the point?
What is the point of continuing to advocate for environmental change when humans just seem Hell bent on destruction? What’s the point of the small personal actions I and so many others like you are taking every day when corporations pump out more and more toxic chemicals and try to convince us that they are safe? What’s the point of dutifully bringing my own container with me for restaurant leftovers when there are people starving or enslaving other humans across the globe? I don’t normally use obscenities on this blog, but to quote The Onion‘s brilliant piece from Friday, I just feel like saying, “Fuck everything. Just fuck it all to hell.”
But what then? What if we all gave up? That thought is almost as inconceivable to me as the world ending on Friday. Two days ago, I gave a talk on plastic-free living for the California State Waterboards in Sacramento. It was fun. The group was enthusiastic and asked a lot of questions. I felt energized. Hopeful. One of the participants raised her hand and asked how I stay so positive when the plastic pollution problem seems so big and overwhelming. How do I keep going? I mentioned that there is a whole chapter in my book on what to do when you feel overwhelmed, and that drinking your cleaning fluid is not the answer. I think I suggested something like playing with kids and pets to get some perspective. (I call my kitties Prozac.) But really, the answer is that working towards a positive solution simply makes me feel better.
I had a conversation with my friend Elizabeth the other day about altruism. Neither of us really believe it exists. Because to me, when I recognize my connection to this planet and all life on it, no matter how awful those life forms might seem to behave at times, doing something for them is the same as doing something for myself. When we are truly kind to other humans, we are kind to ourselves. When we pick up trash in the neighborhood, we are taking care of ourselves. Reaching out to express myself to you right now is more than just reporting… I’m reaching into myself as well to connect to something deeper than words can actually express.
I’m grateful for the Internet which has enabled us all to reach out to each other during difficult times and to share information and make our collective voices heard. I’m grateful to you for reading this post right now and in some way understanding what I’m so inadequately trying to express. I’m grateful for Facebook (infuriating as it can be) for allowing so many people to commiserate this week because when we share our hurts and grief together, we lose the sense of alienation and separation that causes such violent acts to happen in the first place.
I hope to continue working towards healing the planet (whether I’m still collecting plastic or have moved on to a different issue) until the end of my life (whether it comes on Friday or in 40 years or in the next 10 minutes.) Because it’s what I can do. Because I don’t have a choice. Because while I might sometimes get so overwhelmed that all I want to do is zone out in front of the TV watching episode after episode of True Blood and eating fudge sauce straight from the jar, eventually I will have to look up and say, “Fuck it. Life is too short and precious to waste like this. What can I do to make a difference?”