We’re buying an electric car. Or, as they call them, an EV. We have our eye on the Nissan Leaf, as they are among the top rated EV’s on the market. We drove one on Sunday, and it was actually quite fun. It has some zip to it and felt quite smooth. We didn’t test the stereo (though we should probably do that when we pick the one we want to get). Everyone we mention this to talks about how great it is to give up fossil fuels. And it is.
But we need to be clear about something: some of the electricity that powers our new car may very well be generated by fossil fuels. Coal would be the most likely culprit. I cna’t say for sure if that’s the case here in Washington, but it certainly is in some other parts of the world. If it’s not coal, then it would likely be generated at a dam, which bring their own environmental issues.
What I’m trying to get at here is that there are costs. Trade offs. Unless you have solar power at your house and draw all of your car’s electricity off of that, you are having an environmental impact. Buying an EV to get off of fossil fuels is a bit of smoke and mirrors. It’s okay. It’s likely far superior to having a gas powered car. But it’s not going 100% off of these fuels.
So what’s the point? Believe it or not, it’s not to be “that guy.” You know the one. He’s what Merlin Mann would call a “turns out” guy. I’m not here to “turns out.” What I want to point to is that it is good for us to have as much information as possible in front of us. We shouldn’t avoid information. We should embrace it, and them use it to inform our decisions. All while recognizing the trade offs.
Trade offs are a part of the deal. But we’ll never be able to fully understand our impacts in the world if we don’t acknowledge the truths that are, well, a tad uncomfortable.
I have to be honest. The world feels a bit like it’s falling apart today. What is happening in Turkey is horrible. what is happening in DC is unfathomable (though, at this point, it probably shouldn’t be), what is happeing in California is simply nuts. Indeed, when I read about the blackouts in California — and, more importantly — some of the reactions to them, I felt like we are witnessing the unfolding of events that leads to the world Octavia Butler wrote about in the Parable of the Sower. It’s all so much.
It’s tempting to try to find some kind of positive spin on it all. The death throes of a dying world view. What doesn’t kill us makes us strong (not very useful to those it does kill). So on. This is, in many ways, the American way of holding these things. White-knuckle. Put on a smile. It’ll work out. It always does.
What I will say is that if we are going move past this craziness, we have to learn to see it, to acknowledge it, and to own it. In other words, we have to face our darkness. The only way out is through, they say. We are in the middle of it. We can’t make it through if we don’t pick up our heads, open our eyes, and see what is right in front of us. I think we can do it. But it’s gotta be together.
Sometimes I look at the world — especially if I’m anywhere near a strip mall — and think, “14.5 billion years of evolution and this is the best we can do?” And then I’m reminded, somewhere in this small individual mind, that inherent in this sentiment is a judgement that implies I can somehow have a greater sense of order than order itself does. It’s a thought built on an arrogance that is, I think, a defense against a great, primal fear: the fear of the overwhelming amazingness of all of this.
They say that we only register a percentage of the information that our eyes receive. That our ears receive. That our beings receive. If we were to take it all in, we would be overwhelmed; blown over. Unable to function. Perhaps this is why we filter the world through our judgements. If we were to perceive the vast awesomeness of each moment, how could we live?
I’m not sure if this is the why (or merely a why). All I know is that paying attention to the ways in which I am arrogant, and am disconnected from the moment-to-moment miracles of our times seems like one aspect of our collective liberation.
Paying attention opens us to the possibility that every moment contains what we need to be liberated. Imagine.
We met with a potential client today. The main takeaway was this: being human is messy. It’s hard. It’s super tricky. People are doing their best. And we’re all making it up as we go along.
And sometimes, that’s enough.
Another close call
I almost let
the day pass
much as a
matter — for I
do that one
A bit on nature
During Erev Rosh Hashanah services, my rabbi said something along the lines of, “We have de-sacredize nature.” He was speaking about the ways that we are living in todays world — how we have lost our ability to see the divinity in all things. How losing our way has made it possible for us to destroy the world, just as dehumanizing other people allows us to kill them, not to mention enslave them.
A thought popped into my head when he said this: The first step to de-sacredizing nature is to look out into the world and see a thing you call nature. In other words, the first step is to invent nature.
The thing is, nature is a construct. It is a way of explaining what is “out there”, what is separate from us. Nature is trees. Nature is rivers. Nature is a bear or deer. Nature is a mountain. It is something we visit, or that we are “interested in”. It is other.
But this can’t be true. We can’t be spearated from nature anymore than we can separated from our own skin; from the air; from the biosphere. Nature isn’t a thing out there. If it’s anything, it is something that we are in. It is simply the world.
I don’t remember where I heard this idea, but it was something like: cities our the human version of the anthill. What we build is just as natural as that. We have capacities that ants don’t have. That is a neutral concept. What we have done with those capacities? Not so neutral. In many cases, negative. But that we create space for us to live among each other, that we build infrastructure to transport oursevles and resources and information? All of this mirrors what the world does.
But still, we hold it separate. This, of course, is at the heart of why we have built systems that seem to work against the way the world worked. If we actually saw ourselves as a part of the world, we would build economic systems that mirror it. We would build governance systems that mirror it. Our food, healthcare, education systems would all be informed by the flow of rivers and the dance of salmon. How could they not? We would know no other way. But we hold it separate.
When you hold something as separate, it will lose its capacity to hold what is sacred about it. It will become de-sacredized.
Earlier today, I received an email from my rabbi. I noticed in his signature line he had the following:
Ein Od Milvado (Deut. 4:35) There is nothing more than That which alone is.
In order to re-connect with Nature, we have to recognize that it is not there. That we are a part of all of creation. That what we walk on is Holy Ground. This, I think, is the secret to what will turn around this atrocity we know as climate change. It is this big of a step we are asked to take.
One year ago today, I wrote this itty-bitty poem. I agree, it would have been a shame.