David Walbert explains how to avoid hypocrisy.
Last week, walking across campus to the library, I was interrupted (I don’t want to say “accosted”) by a woman in her early twenties wearing a Greenpeace t-shirt.
“Are you on your way to teach, or do you have a minute to help save the environment?”
“No,” I said, smiling, “I’m not on my way to teach.”
So I let her tell me about Greenpeace, and about an initiative to protect rainforests by convincing KFC’s parent company to quit buying from a company called Asia Pulp and Paper, which is alleged to log protected rainforests illegally. Other fast-food chains have quit buying from them, and Greenpeace is pressuring KFC to stop too.
I have this mental image of Greenpeace activists rowing up to an oil tanker in, I don’t know, a Viking longship or something, and attacking it with pea shooters. Quixotic, misguided, but romantic. There was no romance in this little chat on the sidewalk, no adventure, no grand visions, just procedural details of corporate malfeasance. It felt very… oh, bourgeois. Very proper, very polite, very accepting of social and cultural norms, very work-within-the-system.
On the spot I couldn’t articulate why, precisely, I couldn’t bring myself to care. Or maybe I could have, but it was too complicated a conversation for an early-autumn dusk on a sidewalk under the oak trees. I mean, sure, all things being equal, if we’re going to blow through forests to create mountains of single-use cups and napkins so we can eat mindlessly while we race from here to there in our cars that are irrevocably altering the planet’s climate and then bulldoze rural landscapes so we can bury those cups and napkins in landfills, if we’re going to do all that anyway, then sure, we ought to do it… more… um… sustainably? Well, maybe you see my point already.
Read the rest here.
Developing habits of authenticity is hard, especially in this particular world. I feel corrected on a daily basis, which is a very good thing, I think. I am very proud, and grateful, that I have mastered the habit of getting out of bed at a reasonable hour in the morning. Does this solve international problems? Probably not. But it is vital that we correct ourselves before we seek to correct our environment.
My grandmother has had a series of very serious strokes and the family expects her to follow her husband very soon. To me this feels like a cosmic issue, because this woman has taught me so much about love, hard work, and the pleasure we take in small things. It may seem a bit morbid, but I am already preparing my thoughts for the day that we mourn her passing: “To me Grampa Wayne and Gramma Arlene have always been two halves of a whole that I wanted to put together in myself; while Wayne had discernment, Arlene had drive; while he was the velvet, she was the brick; you put the two together and you get a velvet-covered brick . . . ”
As long as we chase wind-mills and neglect the relationships that God in his great kindness has arranged for us, I am afraid this world won’t improve very much. Apart from communities made up of families it really doesn’t matter whether the resources are being misused. In the spirit of this sentiment, I wrote a poem on the day that my grandfather’s ashes were thrown into the waters of Nags Head, NC. Here it is.
The petals washed up on the sand,
Vexing my plan to send them to sea,
Quivering on the shore
And me wanting more.
There are not enough roses
To lay on the graves;
There are not enough roses
To give to the waves.
The patriarch has blended with the aquamarine,
His ashes floating lifeless and unseen,
And here I stand in the changing tide,
My heart open, bleeding, and wide.
The gods conspired so,
To reduce me to such woe.
It serves a plan,
The gut-wrenching of a young man.
It is hard to hear the music
When my heart is playing dirges,
But I know the planets sing
A resurrection dance.
Oh second father, oh kind sir,
Your manners will survive in my demeanor.
Oh brilliant one, oh angel,
You’ve recovered the memories you briefly lost.
I know the cost.
At times I’d like to follow you
And escape this violent stew,
But if you can make it to the end,
I will too.
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