I had coffee today with a fabulous blogger from Melbourne, Australia named Gala Darling who is in town in hopes of eventually transferring her life here. I'd never met her before except by email. We connected some time ago because my blog software told me she had linked to No Impact Man and I wrote her to thank her.
Gala's is this popular and interesting blog that succeeds, first, because of her incredible personality (I mean, just look at her) but, second, because it acknowledges people's complex nature. One minute Gala will blog about how to be the world's hottest kisser, the next about how to make excellent raw hot chocolate, and the next she'll link here to a No Impact Man post about living in gratitude instead of desire or how eating less meat can help the planet.
Gala told me that her blog is ultimately about personal development but that she mixes it up because she believes people are mixed bags just like her. In other words, people want to find meaning in life, to treat the planet correctly, and to live causing more good than harm, but they also want the right lipstick and sunglasses.
Personally, I love that about people. We may be messing up royally when it comes to planetary stewardship, but what a wonderful lot of contradictions and quirks we are. Believe me, this view is hard won. Because when I started the No Impact project, I was as big a finger-wagger as you can find. And I'm sad to say I still still can be (ask Michelle!).
But what I discovered is that finger-wagging and setting myself up as though I'm somehow more moral or have a more stringent set of values is completely counterproductive. Saving the planet is not a conversation about morals and values. Most people have morals and values, but they may prioritize them differently than me. They may, indeed, consider that my priorities are somehow immoral.
So talking about morals is not the way forward. Talking about the merits of sustainability may be helpful. Talking about synergies between human happiness and planetary happiness may help. Talking about the opportunities for changing our culture for the better may help. But telling people they need to get some morality like me, well, probably not so good.
Anyway, I'm sitting drinking coffee out of my jar, and Gala is laughing at me and good-naturedly telling me I'm weird and she asks me, "So what is your practice these days?" By practice, she means what part of the No Impact lifestyle have I kept. I'm struck by her turn of phrase.
Normally, one might ask, "What is your meditation practice?" or "What is your spiritual practice?" To hear sustainable lifestyle measures referred to as "practice" made me really realize that it really is, for me, just that--a practice. If I've forgotten my jar and the only coffee available is in a throwaway cup, I forgo the coffee. Does that save the planet? Probably not, but on some level, it may save me.
This gets me thinking. I am just the sum of the experiences that have fashioned my personality into the type of person who has to make a big deal about being sustainable. A stockbroker is just the sum of the experiences that fashion his or her personality into the type of person who digs playing the market. There's no better or worse. No Impact just becomes the practice that works for me. Playing the market is the practice that works for someone else.
If I can maintain that attitude, if I can understand the human motivations and values that underpin everyone's actions, even if I don't necessarily agree with them, I have a chance of meeting people on common ground and talking to them, not as a person who is morally superior, but as a friend. And people listen more openly to their friends.
It's like Gala's blog. If I want to attract people and change their minds, I need to understand them and their foibles and appreciate them for the fact that they may be able to offer some great pointers on lipstick and sunglasses. Think what the people of the world would look like if they all dressed like environmentalists. Would that even be a world worth saving?
Besides who wants to take the moral high ground? It's such a shaky place. I'd rather be the No Impact blogger who hangs one day with Gala the sort of fashionista blogger, together looking for and finding their commonalities and joking around and building human bridges and, whether saving the world or not, at least make it a little better by simply being human.
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.