One thing Michelle and I really looked forward to as the No Impact year of environmental living came to an end was going to the movies. I'm not even a hundred percent sure why we cut out movies. Partly because we consumed them like, well, consumers. Partly because I was more interested in forms of entertainment that builds community (we're talking lots of charades, baby). Partly because Judith Levine, author of Not Buying It, had cut out movies. Call it one-up-manship among eco-martyrs.
Anyway, the day No Impact ended, Michelle and I bolted out to see Margo at the Wedding. The fact that we were seeing a movie was such a big deal in the narrative of No Impact that the documentary film makers even filmed us going to the cinema. A year of no movies. We were finally free. This was going to be great, right?
So guess what happened?
We were kind of bored.
The thing is, movies are okay, but honestly, it turned out we weren't missing much. Plus Michelle went to look around Barneys and came out not even wanting to buy anything. Plus, we've both ended up walking out of other movies.
You know what it is? We never missed movies, per se. We never missed stuff. But there was still some kind of pull, and here's what it was: wanting to have what other people around us had, wanting to do what they did, wanting to be where they were. In other words, it was, more or less, social anxiety.
If we get to do the things that other people do and have the things that other people have, that means we're as loveable as everyone else. If we go the places they go, then we're as cool and, therefore, again, loveable. Consumption has become a surrogate for being loved.
Instead of going and spending time with people we buy things or show up places like movies because the culture has sold us a bill of goods that says that this is what will make people love us.
How sad. So many of us are a bit lonely and need more human contact. We think the way to get it is to buy things. But really, if we want to be loved, what we we need is living rooms full of people instead of closets full of stuff. We need community. Isn't that an important point? We could be happy without the stuff and without wrecking the planet. We just need to hang out more.
PS More on reentry to come.
Colin Beavan (that's me!) is now leading a conversation about finding a happy, helpful life at Colinbeavan.com. If you want to know how people are breaking out and and finding authentic, meaningful lives that help our world, check it out the blog here and sign up to join the conversation here.