I’m a hypocrite! That just flashed across my mind this morning as I was on my soapbox about the plastic bag ban in LA county. I was so glad that it passed and that now, people will have to pay $0.10 for a paper bag or bring their own. I got into a discussion with someone about all the selfish, consumer-driven trash that we are overwhelming our planet with. And there was a comment about how kids are not stepping up to the plate after finally being taught environmental science in the school curriculum. Or rather, how they are not picking up the mantle. Because they are constantly bombarded with messages about how to be cool, and most of that stems from having to have the latest gadget or clothing or the next disposable “whatever” in their teenage lives.
And then I went online to search for a single-serve pod coffee maker.
It hit me right across the forehead – I’m just as bad! I complain about consumerism, useless gadgets, people not being able to have a human conversation and social interaction, and I go off and do the same thing. It’s difficult to be that self-denialistic. That’s not even a word. But I don’t care.
I think of my friend, Ann, who is tireless in her causes. She worked so hard in getting awareness out about the vote to ban the plastic bags – she went to rallies, sent announcements through Facebook, always has a green message in her e-mails to you – she really and truly believes she can make a difference. And she does, in every single small way, every day, she is thinking about how to leave a better planet. She is what I think would be called an ascetic. She doesn’t allow herself many conveniences or extraneous frills. She donated her car for a tax write-off and attends a lot of the rallies that she goes to by bus or other public transportation (which in Los Angeles is no small feat).
But, back to me and my selfish hypocrisy. I find it fascinating that since the dawn of the industrial revolution, we have come up with machines to “make our life easier.” They take away our work and leave us more time for “relaxing” and having more time for our families (but we really don’t spend that time with them). In the meantime, we get fatter, lazier, and more spiritually unfulfilled. Our manufacturing is mostly now done in China by young children with the cheapest of materials and the shoddiest standards that can be gotten away with. But it only costs $1.49 at WalMart, and that’s what it’s all about. So we can have more “stuff” that we want, even if it only lasts a year, or less, and is made out of man-made materials instead of natural fibers, so we can dispose of it when it starts to fray or lose its shape or pill up into little balls. Then it can sit in landfills for a thousand or so years, leaching toxins into our soils and aquifers.
We have gone from a nation that respected, even revered, craftsmanship in all its forms – construction of homes, sewing, knitting, cooking, making furniture – a nation that once took pride in what it produced. Now, we’ve become lazy consumers. Yes, we consume a shitload of the world’s resources because we have such great wealth. But we are lazy. Not just in body, but in mind. We want the easy way out. We don’t want to have to think, or puzzle it out, or come up with great ideas (some still do, but they are a rarity, and looked on as “retro”). We want our machines to do it for us. We have forgotten the feeling of happy exhaustion from a task well done, the aching muscles, the endorphins (now we go to the gym for that). The sense of accomplishment and pride at making something with our own hands.
There are a few inventions that are seminal – the washing machine – the refrigerator – I won’t say dryer because I remember as a kid my mum hanging out the wash on an outside rack – there was a smell that you couldn’t bottle into Downy and a feeling that no tumbler could impart on the clothes. That’s one of my points – we try to make these things that are already out there – the clothes on the drying rack – let’s invent Downy so it smells just like it. But it doesn’t. The scents in nature that are out there and so elusive – a rainshower (that smell of hot wet concrete in the summer, you know the smell don’t you?); a forest; an ocean shore; we try to invent facsimiles of this so we can have it all the time. Well, maybe we weren’t meant to have it all the time. Maybe the scents and experiences should only be experienced once in a while, or once in a lifetime even. My ex used to take me to his family’s cabin in northern Michigan in the summer. There was this amazing scent that was there – cherries, trees, earth, water, fire. Once you were there you got used to it and couldn’t discern the smell from just what you were breathing, but when you came home and unpacked, you were there again as your clothes released the scent of Traverse City, and you were instantly transported back. I have only smelled that smell one other time since. It grabbed me, stopped me in my tracks, and brought tears to my eyes. It conjured up the good memories I had when I went there. It was fleeting, and I wanted more. But I knew that the one whiff I got would have to tide me over.
Smell is the strongest sense we have to trigger memory, and we want these olfactory reminders all the time, so we desperately try to bring them back. So we have plug-ins, disappearing gels, ozone-killing aerosols to try and bring them back to us. At the cost of putting petroleum-laced chemicals in our homes. And loosing hormones (including photoestrogens that mess up reproductive organs and health), that we ingest that scramble our signals and confuse our body’s fine-tuned systems. But, at least it smells “good,” right?
Thank God we don’t have to smell our own humanity. We cover up everything that makes us human, in our quest to be better than human. Godlike. Surely, a spiritual being doesn’t stink, right? God doesn’t smell like sweat or musk or hard work. We coat our pits with aluminum and take the chance of Alzheimer’s later in life rather than smell human. We douse our pulse points with chemicals that smell like something else rather than the unique pheromones we all give off. We light a Yankee candle or spray lavender in the bathroom rather than let anyone think our shit stinks. It’s a toilet, right? Isn’t is supposed to smell a little? I’d prefer that if you wanted to disguise where you’d been… just light a match, please!
We take away every single thing that makes us human, that designates us as animal (and I mean animal in the Latin term, “being that breathes”).
I think that we are all spiritual beings having a human experience. That our spirit has been plopped down into this “animus” and we are just trying to figure out how to be human. It’s not always fun. It’s messy, fraught with sounds and smells that are uniquely us. Probably why we’re such bad communicators too. Why can’t you read my mind? Well, maybe in the spiritual world you don’t have to, and we forget that.
The burping, the farting, the sweating, the crying, the vomiting, the sneezing… vive le humanity.