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Dear God,

It’s been a while since I wrote.

Thing is, I felt like I couldn’t reach you. Maybe it was the Church that did it. With its zealous campaign to remind us that we are flawed human beings, it overshot its target and made us believe that we were completely hopeless. Some of us, who already had a good sense of our depravity, became convinced that as fallen beings we had no access to you, no place by your side and really, no place even on this Earth. Instead of being empowered we were weakened. At some point we forgot that we were created in your image, and that you created us good.

We began spending many hours of each day in ritual self-flagellation. We beat ourselves up over not being good enough parents, bad church goers, non-tithers, immoral, apathetic, un-praying and uninvolved. Not only could be not talk to you, because, after all, we hadn’t read the Bible in so many days, weeks, months, but we weren’t good enough to go to church either. We had to take action in order to at least somehow justify our existence. So we wrote to-do lists, pushed ourselves to the limit, put ourselves down and promised to do better. This all must have looked ridiculous to you.

Or maybe it was our society. Goodness, what a bunch of health-conscious, environmentally aware confused individuals we are. The world told us to eat better, to drive less, to care for the minorities among us, and instead of joyfully taking it on, we were consumed with guilt – for eating sweets, throwing away plastic cans, driving instead of biking to work, using non-biodegradable materials. There was no joy in anything we did. We were only desperately, without any real hope, trying to make this world a little bit less of a horrible place to live. And us – just a rung higher up on the unending ladder of guilt and social responsibility.

This was your enemy’s work. He took all of the good that might have been intended, and deranged it. The father of lies had prevailed, if only temporarily, at his best craft. We came to believe, I believed, that we had to earn our place; that we had to deserve it. This was impossible, and we floundered around helplessly. This is why I hadn’t written.

But lately I noticed that this idea doesn’t quite jive with what you teach. In fact, it renders the death and resurrection of your Son completely absurd.

So I just wanted to drop you a line, let you know things are getting better. I am allowing myself the joy of not thinking about guilt. You thought of that already. Funny that it took me only 20 years of faith in you to realize this. But that’s OK too. You’re probably smiling right now, maybe even rolling your eyes a bit. But hey, better late than never, and in the grand scheme of things – it’s not late at all.

It’s the perfect time to be finding the child you love.

Not to sound pretentious, but I get this a lot: “How do you have the time to do all of these things??” Often I am tempted to reply with a half-snide “I make time. What do you do all day?”

Thing is, if you think about time, you may realize that it is the great common denominator. Everything can be broken down to time. It’s also the universal currency – most of the decisions we make affect our expenditure of time or arise from it. What some of us may not recognize, often enough, is that time is a precious, nonrenewable resource. It is limited, for each person, and it does run out. Try as you may, you cannot create, recycle, or plant more of it. I think if we understood this, we would live differently.

Maybe I am being too optimistic though.

Two thoughts on time. One is that your age should be determined not by how much you’ve lived, but by how much you still have left. Imagine! A 25-year old criminal on death row would be older than the 60-year old recreational diver. This is the flip side of the traditional approach to age. Think about it: when somebody is young, it means that they’re inexperienced, foolish, maybe, reckless..but it also means that they still have much ahead of them (as in “I’m still young…I have time…”). The reverse is true of our typical perception of being old: there is much behind you, and not much left ahead. “Oh…I’m too old now to (fill in the blank: get married? Pick up para-sailing? Learn how to use a computer?)”. But if you saw your age as what lies ahead instead of what lies behind, you would be forced to evaluate the choices you make more carefully, because actually, you don’t know how long you have left.

Let's do it!

The old saying goes, “Why do something today if you can put it off till tomorrow?”. I say, “Do it today, because there may not be a tomorrow for you (or me)”.

The other thought is this: I have always adhered vehemently to the credo “Life is short” (implicit: live it to the fullest), because at one point I realized that life will be short for me. That is, it will be too short to do and try and learn and taste and experience everything that I would like to do and try and learn…. Like, I was driving home from church yesterday thinking it would be great to pick up kayaking, especially because in the area where we live there are many waterways perfect for this water sport. And then I got to thinking about wall climbing and how I should join an outdoors climbing group to go on climbing trips with them, and then I remembered that I wanted to get more into composing, now that we have a keyboard at home…and the list goes on.

Honestly, I am stumped when others do less. I mean, what else is there to do except…stuff? That’s what living is. Doing stuff.

A few examples of time as the common denominator: I’ve been reading a lot of blogs and literature lately about living green, and car-free, and being independent, off the grid, having your own homestead, picking your seasonally-grown veggies for the winter months, etc., and I got to thinking. On the one hand, I salute the movement fully because it is based on another credo of mine: living deliberately; thinking about how you treat the land, and your bodies, and the people and nature around you. On the other hand, like any movement, it can consume you.

To market, to market...

Say you don’t want to leave a carbon footprint because you love nature and want your kids to love it and learn to value it. So you start recycling, saving all of your plastics and reusing glassware, getting rid of your car, using candles and solar power instead of electricity, and drying your clothes on cloth lines. You realize that many of the chemicals in your house are or can be harmful to you or the environment. You start mixing your own natural cleaners, soaps, makeup, detergents. Before you know it, all of your time is spent on doing this stuff, and none on going outside, actually being in nature, spending time with family and friends.

Or you want to be independent, food and electricity-wise. So you start a garden, dig a well, set up solar panels and wind turbines. You preserve your fruits and vegetables, you milk your cow, make your own yogurt, cheese, butter, cream. You grow your own organic fiber, weave or knit from it your own clothes. Yes, eventually you become fully independent, but the caveat is that while you’re independent from other people providing you with all of the necessities of life, you’re fully dependent on your own efforts to sustain you. You must toil day and night, like the people of yore, like all of civilization did for millenia before the industrial revolution radically altered the way humanity produced goods…And again, you have no time for the things that matter (to you).

Basically, these more radical expressions are only worth it if the process in and of itself is actually the way you’d prefer to spend your time. Or you can spend your time working to earn money to buy fresh fruits and vegetables any time of the year, or to pay for a car so you can go places and see the world.

The same can be said of child-rearing activities. For instance, you can work long hours, earn money to get your kid signed up for fancy-pancy classes, Montessori school, art, dance, football, fencing…or you can work part time and teach these things yourself (and learn them in the process too!). Bottom line again is: where do you want to spend your time? Doing what?

I got a George Washington Carver award in high school, and on it there’s a quote by him: “There’s no short cut to achievement”. This is true too. If you look at someone who is a tremendous painter or an exceptional mathematician, know that they put their time in, and got results. Others put that same time in to bar hopping, partying, smoking weed or just watching TV all day. The time is gone, either way, the return on it, though, varies greatly.

So the moral of the story is: go ye forth, and seize the day! Seriously. Do it.

The surprises just keep coming.

It started with eating healthy foods. No, it started with recycling. Or was the first step in my green education the term “greenhouse gas” and “CO2 emissions”?

Like many other twentysomethings, I would vernture to say that we’re pretty green-savy. Movements that have been brewing on the back burners and homestead chicken coups for decades seem to have finally made it into the limelight, and now the enviornmentalist, along with every other thinking individual, are sounding the alarm on the damaging effects of hysterical consumerism and irresponsible…well, wastefulness.

But the more I read and soak up, the more this feels like deja vu. Where have I seen this before? In third-world countries around the world, the new modus operandi proclaimed and practiced by the more enlightened individuals here in the US has been the same old same old for centuries.

Yes! We’re so far ahead, we’re behind. Or we’re getting there, fast. Not that this is a bad thing.

So, taking the very subjective experience of growing up in the nearly-post Soviet Russia (read: the 80’s), which, considering basic concepts of statistics, can be that random sample reflecting the trend at large, a most curious picture emerges:

1. Eat healthy, non-pesticide foods. Check. In Russia, most junk food, which was synonymous with liberation from communist rule, came only in the late 80’s and 90’s. Before, your average Sergei and Anastacia consumed copious amounts of potatoes (organically grown, mind you), cabbage, and wild-caught herring.

2. Reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Check. Private cars were also a luxury that 95% of the population easily did without. And guess what? We used public transportation , rode bikes, and walked places. Most people in the rest of the world still do. And not because it’s eco-hip, but simply because that’s what’s available.

3. Adding on to the greenhouse gas emission reduction point, we have the limited use of energy-guzzling appliances. How about water-heated batteries to warm the home in the winter, and, yes, “natural ventilation” (aka. opening the windows) in the summer. Revolutionary, I know. We hung our clothes on cloth lines, washed them using “natural” soap, and, did you know, used the same soap for body and hair! Ladies and gentlemen, it works.

4. Recycling. I love the idea of reusing your plastic and glass containers, and of taking cloth sacks with you when you do your shopping and farmers market perusing. Incidentally, this same revolutionary technique was used by my grandmother when we’d go get milk at the local farm, two decades ago, or when ladies in their “babushkas” (which, by the way, is wrong, because “babushka” means “grandmother”, and NOT “scarf”…goodness) would go to the store for their cottage cheese and rye bread. And of course, they all shopped locally.

My latest discovery has been “cohousing”. When I first chanced upon the term, I half-expected to read about families moving back into communal apartments, sharing kitchens and bathrooms…The real cohousing is a more advanced rendering of this concept, I have to give them that, but at the heart it’s the same. Although the purpose behind it different.

And this is where the main difference lies between third world “environmentalism” and the green movement in the US and abroad: purpose vs. necessity, deliberation vs. lack of alternatives, environmental consiousness vs. the only affordabile option.

While the Russians, and most people in 3rd world countries, live(ed) the way they do (did) because this is all they have, others seem to opt for a more moderate, economical lifestyle because they realize that it’s actually better, for the Earth, and for them personally.

It’s curious how some families that are involved in the new green movement chose to preserve their own seasonally picked fruits and vegetables for the winter months, while knowing full well that grocery stores will carry the same produce in the wintertime. It is truly inspiring that some folks live with such deliberation, and take such pains to live the “right way” while most of the world lives that way by default and considers it a success when they can finally afford to buy that first car, clothes dryer, or fresh apple in the wintertime.

With that past behind me, and the possibility of simpler, cleaner living before me, the choice is at once easy and hard. I say yes! to responsible consuming, organic produce, living locally and leaving a small ecological footprint. I say yes!, but then, seeing the path that my family has traversed to “get where they are”, the struggles to have a “brighter future”, more financial stability, more comfort in life, a small voice in the back of my mind mocks: “why are you storing all of these plastic containers? Throw away the glass jars! Are you kidding me? Are we back in communist Russia? Pickling mushroom for the bitter winter months???”

But the relatively recent consumerism won’t trump the centuries, millenia of tilling the land and being a wise homemaker. It’s in my genes, and it’s in yours. Perhaps that’s why we’re slowly turning back.

Perhaps, that’s why it feels so good.

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