I've said this before: it wouldn't be so bad if, while wrecking the planet, we could at least say we were having one hell of a party.
But I'm not sure we are.
So many of us are working way more than we should, spending less time with those that we love than we want to, not using the talents we most value, and not connecting to any larger sense of meaning.
For many, life is a grind and what we get instead of the real satisfactions--if we're lucky--is a lot of stuff. Big houses, boats and airplane rides. Consolation prizes. The things we're supposed to want.
The question is, are the things we're supposed to want making us happy? Because for certain, our having more stuff is not making the planet more happy.
The more stuff we make and buy, the more greenhouse gases and air pollution and every other kind of pollution we pump out, the more the planet's ability to support our health, happiness and security suffers.
So, back where I started, can we, while wrecking the place, at least say we're having one hell of a party? Will we at least be able to say, when it's all over, that it was worth it?
I'm thinking maybe not. I'm thinking maybe we ought to ask ourselves again what the good life really is, because it would be a shame if we trashed the place and all we got in return was, say, the mediocre life.
What makes us happy? What makes us fulfilled? What makes us feel as though we have made best use of the 75 years or so we get?
I ask myself this all the time, because I think it is crucial. And one thing I think is that the true good life might actually mean less stuff, fewer working hours to buy the stuff but a lot more leisure time.
That might mean fewer of us would have our own boats and jet skis, but more of us would know how to play guitar and make great art.
I might not have the money to fly around the world, but I would get to spend more time reading literature and playing with Isabella.
In other words, we could let the planet save its resources and, at the same time, instead of working our butts off, maybe become the people we really want to be.
That's called redefining the good life.
Now imagine this. Imagine a society and an economy that did not revolve around material productivity and efficiently ensuring that all of us got as much stuff as possible.
Imagine, instead, a society and economy whose purpose is to ensure that we all got our basic needs met so that we could use the rest of our time do what fulfilled us.
Might that be an economy that costs our habitat less while paying us more? Might that, therefore, be a more efficient economy in terms of human satisfaction delivered per unit of resource used?
Meanwhile, as for the picture at the top of this post, when I think thoughts like these, I experiment and ask myself what the good life would be for me (and each of us has our own definition). How might I spend more leisure time?
So today, with time I could have used to work, I instead sat down with Isabella and drew on a piece of newspaper.
And what I'm dreaming of just now is a way of life for our culture in which I don't feel stressed that spending time drawing on newspaper with my little girl is time I should be using to earn more money. A culture that supports what really sustains us instead of just the consolation prizes.
Might that be one vision of the good life? A good life that doesn't even cost the earth?
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.