–by Peter Kalmus (Oct 12th, 2017)
The changes I’ve been making to my own life are simple, but they go far beyond recycling or green consumerism. I came to see that the business-as-usual ways of industrial society are bankrupt. So I actively replace those parts of my everyday life that feel unsatisfying with new ways of living that I do find satisfying.
Such changes don’t require sacrifice so much as exchange, swapping daily actions that aren’t satisfying for ones that are. In this way, my everyday life has gradually come into harmony with my beliefs. My experience has been that congruence between outer and inner life is the key to happiness. I’m no good at fooling myself.
I also came to see how deeply I’d been influenced by the subconscious whisper of culture, how little I questioned my everyday actions, and how completely I accepted the illusion that the way things are is the only way they could be. My old mindset was separation; my emerging mindset is connection. I’m learning that acceptance and detached observation of my own mind is the basis of compassion. I’m learning how to become sustainable, internally.
We could coin a word for this path of inner and outer change: becycling, beyond recycling. Becycling entails restoring cyclical natural processes at the local scale. It requires getting busy instead of passively hoping that “they will think of something.” It means accepting responsibility for your own everyday actions and changing those that harm other beings in our planet’s biosphere. It means actually being the change. […]
It used to be difficult for me to imagine living in another way, to imagine this land around me in Southern California without freeways, parking lots, or gas stations; to imagine the world without the constant noise of cars, helicopters, planes, and leaf blowers. These seemed like permanent fixtures. I took the conveniences of modern industrial life for granted—the frozen foods aisle, the cheap airplane flights, the internet, the constant distractions. I was attached to them; I wanted more of them. I kept hoping that more would make me happy. More stuff, more money, more clickbait, more convenience. After all, that’s what our culture of industrial civilization constantly whispers to our subconscious: more of this and you will finally be happy.
Now, as I ride my bicycle on the overpass over the freeway, the traffic below looks impermanent. The way our society lives now feels ephemeral to me.
While I used to see the future as more, I now see it as less. Far from feeling scary to me, less feels right. I’ve learned that wanting more actually gets in the way of happiness. The feeling of “more and then I’ll finally be happy” is an illusion.
I now see the imminent transformation of all that’s around me not as an end but as a beginning. This shift in my way of thinking has grown over time out of many moments of simple connection to nature and to other people. Even on a warmer planet, even after today’s global industrial civilization is no more than legend, there will still be mountains and sunsets, forests to walk in and oceans to sail, and good people to enjoy it all with.
But there’s lots of work to do to prepare for the coming storms. Happily, the work is fun.
–Peter Kalmus. Excerpt from his recently published book: Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution. [Drawing courtesy of de collaborators of the same book]