While other people are moaning and groaning about how bad things are, how the US president is provoking nuclear war to justify spending even more future money on the Department of Offense; or how climate change is inevitable, considering how much CO2 and methane (CH4) we humans generate by life and death; or how the world is over-populated with people, weeds, insects, bacteria, and viruses, while wild animals are losing habitat; or how corruption in government, or corporate welfare, poverty, racism, addiction and obesity—just to name a few—overshadow the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave, I see why I didn’t propagate. Not only doesn’t the world need me to breed, but I didn’t want the responsibility of children or to have genetic chains binding me to the planet once I die.
Selfish me. It frees me of obligation to a planet of human beings who seem determined to suffer, who are attached to their suffering like an alcoholic to his booze. Some people believe suffering is necessary to life; others believe there is nobility in it. I believe suffering is a choice, often a habit that can be broken. There is a lot of gratification in the victim role, and it’s often the hardest to give up. It looks outside for causes and for comfort, but there is no one more vicious or vindictive than the exposed masochist.
When I’m in the mood to suffer, bad things happen. Mistakes and accidents occur. When I’m pre-occupied with anger, resentment, or fear, it distracts me from the moment at hand, from the appreciation of all the things that are going right, from being grateful for what I have: indoor plumbing, generally good health, food from all over the world, and enough of it, lights and refrigeration, a roof over my head, people I like, most of the time, and who like me, less of the time but often enough.
Assumptions abound about our limited and declining resources, competition for them, and the notion that the resource “pie” has only so many pieces. The “wealthy,” the one percent, the “oligarchs,” are presumed to be greedily gobbling up more than their fair share, leaving the rest of us in various states of want or need.
What few state or seem to understand is that the US’ wasteful, consumerist society sets an example that the world is following, believing our glittery “progress” deserves to be emulated. The resourcefulness of the past—when consumer goods weren’t so prodigious or readily available—seems somehow shameful, out of keeping with the modern, throw-away lifestyles promulgated by advertising, television, and government, those who are heavily invested in selling us more of their stuff, services, values, and propaganda.
To make better use of what we have seems more important now than ever, when we have so much. A rising tide of books and magazines tell us how to de-clutter, simplify, and curtail the accumulation of belongings. Broken things or things that have outlived their usefulness fill closets and shelves, yet disposing of them takes enormous effort and is fraught with indecision, sentimentality, or questions about whether to give them away (who would want them?), throw them away, or sell them (to whom?). We are told that landfills are full, overflowing, and leaking into the groundwater.
Getting rid of stuff has become a dominant theme in my life. My broken, decayed, outmoded or ragged things add to the overwhelming oppression of having too many things in the way and too little use for them.
If my problems are multiplied times millions of people in the US, no wonder landfills are full and there’s litter in the streets, with trash cans scarce and carefully guarded. People complain of declining resources, but they rarely talk about making better use of what we have, of creating jobs to deal with the clutter, rather than produce more goods that fill closets, shelves, houses, and garbage dumps.
In my small way I try to reduce demand for single-use packaging, such as plastic bags, by shopping with my collection of re-usable ones. I carry a thermal coffee cup to the coffee shops. I generally boycott processed, heavily packaged and boxed food, making it easier to carry groceries in one cloth bag. I patch and repair comfortable, at-home clothes and make my own socks and sweaters. I keep a post office box and recycle junk mail into the PO’s recycling bins. I drive a hybrid, gas-electric car, and that as seldom as possible.
But it’s not enough just to do that, even though I have no reason to care what happens to the planet after I’m gone. I’m an esthete who dislikes disorganization, over-consumption, and waste. It offends me that the oceans are full of plastic junk, even though I’ve never seen the giant gyres, as described in books like Plastic: A Toxic Love Story.
Why are we human animals doing this to ourselves and to the planet? The tragedy of over-consumption, over-production, and waste is that it is presumed by some to support “the economy,” yet it has created a toxic imbalance that is poisoning minds, bodies, and the Earth itself.
What to do about it? How much is enough? How much is too much, unnecessary excess that we take on out of weakness, fatigue, or habit? As an official “senior citizen,” I probably won’t live to see the drastic changes predicted by the “climate scientists;” or I may get killed in a war provoked by our paranoid government; or the health snare racket may treat me to death. My personal fate is unpredictable, as is everyone’s, and that of the planet as a whole. In fact, I believe there are as many probable futures as there are imaginations to predict them. I do hope that between now and then, I will enjoy to the maximum the process of living while learning ever better how not to suffer.