Sunday, June 13, 2010

Is it the sunshine or the new hemp necklace on our shoulders that makes us happy?

We're heading back tomorrow from a week in Maui. And while the trip was wonderful, once again, Hawaii wasn't what I expected.

It's funny how you see the pictures of waterfalls, beaches and people snorkeling when you see pictures of Hawaii. Maybe a few people with a lei. Maybe a volcano. Maybe people surfing.

You do not see what makes up a good portion of Hawaii, and that's people selling and buying crap.

The first time we went to Hawaii, four years ago, we stayed in Waikiki, and I was surprised at how unfulfilling it was. Everywhere we went, someone was trying to sell us something. I probably spent as much time looking at shirts and other souvenirs, and when I wasn't doing that, I was telling people I wasn't interested in what they were selling.

This is partly because my wife's mother loves to shop - she'd rather do that than anything, actually - and partly because the sales pitches, stores and people selling crap were unavoidable.

Oh, there were things to do that didn't involve money. They were just hard to find.

I find myself worrying about Jayden as I think about this. He's with us on this trip. The twins are with my mother back in Colorado. We figured, correctly, that Jayden was old enough to appreciate the trip. It''s been nice to have him here. We've had a good time.

Well, a good time, that is, when he isn't asking for toys or shirts or necklaces or all the other stuff he runs into when we run into a store for something. Sometimes his begging and pleading is embarrassing. Sometimes we don't listen. Other times, I'm sorry to say, we give in.

And so, when I think about this trip, I find myself worrying about how we consume. It seems our lives are geared around consumption. Our errands, our jobs, our daily lives and even our vacations. Especially our vacations. When we're supposed to be taking a break from many things, we're actually revving up our consumption of crap we don't need.

Before you start to get the idea that I'm pointing a finger at you, I'm guilty of this myself. Probably not as some, but I definitely do my part. I've bought a couple shirts, a hemp necklace and some new sunglasses on this trip. I went on a submarine ride and also took a snorkeling cruise with a private company when I got tired of waiting for the Pacific Whale Foundation, which supports the ocean when so many others aren't, to take my order (in fairness to me, I did wait a half hour).

I've also done my share of things you'd expect from me. I ran a rainforest trail through a beautiful misty wonderland, ran on a beach, ran 8 miles today along a coastline and went to a bird preserve. Yet as I've done these things lately, I get fulfilled, and yet I also get sad.

Have you seen "Planet Earth"? You should.

After watching it, and watching how all these animals interact with each other, with each species playing a role in a sensitive eco-chain, I'm struck by something. We are probably the only species that worries about obtaining things rather than just the stuff we need to survive. We do not worry just about food and water and shelter like all other animals.

No, we worry about and lust after T-shirts, and hemp necklaces, and cars, and jewelry and travel guides and paintings and new dresses and turtle earrings and iPods and swim shirts and shoes and running shoes and computers and digital cameras (both waterproof and regular) and cheap sunglasses and…and…do I need to go on?

And we start them so young. My girls are fixated on things. They sleep with their Made In China toys from McDonald's until they forget about them three days later and we put it in the drawers full of other crap.

I understand that probably 90 percent of all our livelihoods rely on this sort of thing. I know my job does. As much as we'd like to believe how sacred journalism is (and I still do believe that, at least the kind that runs in newspapers and maybe a few magazines and a couple blogs and maybe a TV program), we rely on advertising to survive. I wish it weren't so, but I can't think of another model that keeps us viable.

This all has a price, and we're seeing that price right now. It's all over the gulf and threatening Florida and the very things I love. BP's oil spill is just the beginning. As shocking and sad as it is, it was inevitable.

I believe one reason we're still using oil, other than their powerful lobbying efforts, is rather than focus on ways to find other sources of energy, we're too focused on consuming things, and so we're tapping into oil the way addicts shoot up their drugs of choice.

The new shit is what gets us high.

But I wonder.

The sub ride, and the snorkeling trip we took, was packed with people who wanted to see pretty fish. Whenever they saw something cool, an eel, a blowfish, hell, just something other than a guppy, goldfish, beta or anything else you can't buy in a pet store, you'd hear cries of joy.

"Oh my God, that's just so beautiful!" a woman said through tears after seeing a dolphin on our snorkeling cruise.


As much as I would like to think I'm different because of my connection to nature and begin outdoors, as I see time and again, I'm really not that much different. I've just got the tools to experience it more than others. I'm fit and skilled and knowledgeable, and many aren't and don't have the time, desire and energy to reach the levels that I already have available to me.

But that doesn't mean they don't want to see nature. Most people not only love nature, they're willing to spend hundreds of dollars in one sitting to experience it. The sub ride took us to the bottom of a coral reef for less than an hour, and the only real cool thing about it was the opportunity to see different fish. Yet people paid almost $100 per person to go.

I get the idea that people are exactly like me. They just don't know it. They don't get the satisfaction they believe they should from stuff. They get their joy and satisfaction and life forces even from nature and being outside. We're still animals. We still play a place in the ecosystem.

We're at the top, thanks to our intelligence and force of will, even if we'd probably be somewhere in the middle if we didn't have those traits (and after seeing some of the fish thanks to that sub and the cruise, I wonder if we wouldn't be near the bottom).

Do we stomp on it all in our path in the quest for more stuff, or do we begin to tread lightly? I fear I already know the answer, but for now, I'll remain optimistic that more people will become self-aware of their need for a diverse, complex and fun world around us and do something about it.

My son, like me, is walking a thin line between those two choices. He adores nature and the outside world. And he loves stuff and wants more of it all the time.

I suppose I shouldn't worry too much about him after all. In our world, either way, he'll fit right in.


KenP said...

Relax. I lived with worse. In the winter the snow was black before noon because of the steam engines. When driven past industry we knew their odor as well as skight. They've poisoned the ground with waste.

Cancer data isn't out of line. The senior center is full of people that like other old people -- that isn't choice but necessity.

In athletics you make me look like a sissy. I got my dings but nothing like you. Of course I'll be 70 next month with some luck and I can barely walk at times. Mornings can be hell.

Poker taught us that the outcome isn't always for the best or what seems reasoned. Yes, the gulf is a tragedy but using it for promoting agendas may well cause worse damage.

People screw up all the time. It is only recently that we blame everything but them and then somehow don't bother to fix things right. Just fixing thing to work right is a lot more green than whale hugging. It turned this rust belt area into a very livable place. Most of the improvements between then and now happened because the made business sense.

Do you think drilling in the gulf will be far more or less safe because of what all the other companies are seeing? Although, I've heard one of the rigs drilling the relief well is a bigger safety hazard than the one that blew up. Some folks don't learn from their mistakes.

So buy the kid some ice cream and his hemp necklace and enjoy life while it is there to enjoy. Editorials really aren't a vacation item. Sun screen and loud shirts and hemp necklaces are. When you get home, stop by Estes Park or the Springs and you'll likely see Hawaiians scarfing up their snow globes and Indian stuff.

振瑋 said...

It takes all kinds to make a world..................................................................