29 August 2009

I'm doing nothing to save the world

I'm not known as a hard worker. I am known as an opinionated, argumentative, critical person, and it has been suggested to me on numerous occasions that I might have made something of myself if I had applied some hard work to those qualities and become a lawyer or politician or activist of some sort. I might have been able to change the world.

Work for me is generally preceded by a whole bunch of thinking which looks suspiciously like not-work from the outside. Work also ends when good-enough is achieved, usually well short of perfect. Then there is the period of admiration of said work, and the basking in the glow of having worked. This process takes a lot of time during which mostly nothing appears to be happening. Somehow, I managed to marry a workaholic perfectionist, who can be observed to be working at almost any moment of his waking hours. I like to think our relationship is mutually beneficial, as I have been spurred into more action than would otherwise be natural, and he has been conditioned to sit down to eat a family meal at least once a day.

I'm the child of Dutch immigrant parents and I endured an authentic Calvinist-brand upbringing. No generic protestant work ethic for me. In spite of that, I have a lazy streak and it goes beyond mere personal work-avoidance. I regard much of the work that goes on around me as trivial and wasteful of time and resources. I admire the publicly idle.

Most certainly, and like most people, the world is not a better place for my having been born. I hope that my footprint is not so large as to make it a whole lot worse. The fact is, though, that I am a physical being and I take up space and consume energy and materials just to stay alive, as do the other 7 billion or so other inhabitants of this planet. Some of us have a vague awareness of limits and the tendency of populations to crash when they are exceeded, unlike say, goldfish, who keep growing and eating and shitting in their dirtier and dirtier water with no anxiety whatsoever about the future (or perhaps they are anxious, but they hide it well). But goldfish, at least those with whom I have been acquainted, have at least some hope that a giant hand will occasionally emerge out of the murk and clean things up. Some religions offer a similar deal to their adherents, or at least the promise of a clean tank after death, but in exchange for lot of obeying, praying, paying, proselytizing or slaying infidels. In other words: a lot of work.

I don't have any solutions to the overcrowded aquarium problem. We humans seem hard-wired to consume as much as possible which makes a lot of sense evolution wise. Those of us descended from Adam and Eve I have no explanation for. I expect we'll consume and excrete and reproduce until we can't anymore, and then we'll stop. I'm trying to do less of all of that, but quite honestly, I haven't the energy to do more than chip away at the edges of my consumption and I am not certain it makes the slightest difference anyway. I know I have at times been preachy and prescriptive on this very blog, but it all seems a little much for a fat goldfish in the top of the bowl to be squawking about consumption at billions of other goldfish, most of whom are taking up much less space in the bottom of the bowl, and I regret any distress I may have caused.

This is why I'd make a poor politician, activist or clergyperson. In addition to all the hard work, there's that professional optimism I wouldn't be able to maintain. I wouldn't generate very many votes, or dollars or converts with my "why bother" message. Even though reducing consumption is hard work I'm not likely to abandon my efforts in that direction because earning money to support consumption is even harder and way less fun than my current subsistence activities.


  1. Another child of Dutch, Calvinist immigrants here. Hard work was praised, but the day of rest was just as important, and I learned to fully enjoy my relaxation too.

    Too bad Adam and Eve didn't stay in the garden long enough to take care of it in the long term, eh?

  2. I wonder if we've crossed paths before? I spent a couple of years in the CRC (Covenant) when we moved to Edmonton in 1979 before some sort of falling out involving our family's non-attendance at the second service (or something like that). I did grade 9 at WECS in 79/80.

    At least A and E got to see what kind of a mean old deity they were dealing with up front. He knew they'd eat the fruit eventually.



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