So I'm having breakfast with a friend of mine who is having kind of a midlife crisis and he tells me that when he was young, he had the choice between going into finance and one of the arts and he chose finance. He felt, in a lot ways, like this was contrary to the person he was, but he needed financial security.
Thirty years later he reconsidering his life direction, and we were talking about how he was so driven to succeed during his career in finance. He told me this: "On some level, because I made a choice that was dissatisfying to my character, I felt like I had to wrest a great reward from my finance career. I felt like if I can't pursue my art I better get a lot of money and toys."
How about that?
Everything about our society is about facilitating economic--and therefore material--throughput. It is how our culture is designed. The idea is to facilitate our earning more so we can spend more so the factories can make more so we can earn more so we can spend more...
But what if the human destiny is to become more than an earning and spending machine? What if human destiny is to have our basic physical needs met, so that we don't have to eek out an existence, and then to pursue our higher interests, development of our innate talents and the becoming of all that we could be as people?
Might a society that facilitates self actualization make people happier than one that facilitates the earn more to spend more model? Because if we were able to structure our culture in such a way--where people like my friend didn't necessarily have to make the stark choice between making a living and following a calling--might we find that we required less money and toys? Might we find that we yearned less to use up the resources that the planet can ill-afford to give us?
As it stands, all of us are supposed to be, essentially, "service workers" or "knowledge workers" because that is what the economy demands. The consolation for fitting our round peg temperaments into these square peg jobs is that we get the money and toys, just like my friend.
The question becomes, if our culture facilitated following our calling instead of following the dollars, might we all find that we were a lot more content with having less stuff? Might people and the planet both benefit?
On an individual level, does that suggest that if we want to live using fewer resources but still be happy the way to do it is to pursue our passions instead of our paychecks?
Just a thought.
Because it turns out that the question "How shall we live ecologically?" may just as easly shortened to simply "How shall we live?"
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.