naked superpower

If I was a superhero, I think I would be that kid in the movie "Mystery Men" who could make himself invisible... but only if he was naked and nobody was looking. This is partly because any superpower that requires nudity is just awesome, and partly because I seem to have an amazing ability to set impossible goals where it is impossible to determine if I have succeeded.

Like say, for example, this one: I want to live a life that is completely consistent with my values.

Now, I know you might say that we all live consistently within our values because actions reveal what our values truly are, but I think this is too simplistic an explanation of the often paradoxical, mysterious intersections of mind, body, spirit and will. Also, it implies that I value being a lazy, selfish, arrogant poop-head, which is just not true.

As I see it, the real problem with my goal of life/value consistency is a little more complicated. While my actions do reveal my values and (in a somewhat ironic twist) change those values into something else, the problem I have is that although I generally think I am doing things for noble reasons, I often discover after the fact that not only was I driven by an amalgamation of bizarre, misguided notions - but also the actions these notions inspired did not actually accomplish what they were meant to.

I realize that I'm getting off into esoteric Josh Barkingreed La-la land here, so let me bring it down to the practical land of yogurt. Or, to be less specific, my hap-hazard attempts to become the savior of the planet by walking a little more lightly over it.

I was talking to my Nova Scotian surfer-dude/social-worker friend Leland about this a couple of nights ago, and he brought up the matter of yogurt containers. Like me, Leland tries to buy food that is natural and organically-produced. He does this not only because he is trying to minimize the amount of chemicals accumulating in his fatty tissues, but also because he wants to do his part to stop strip-mining the soil of the nutrients of life. He was getting annoyed, however, that even eating health-conscious food didn't really seem to do the trick.

"It's so frustrating,' he said, "I've got like thirty of these stupid plastic yogurt containers under my sink. I know it's all about marketing and shipping and all that, but it's so frustrating that even the good yogurt is packaged this way - and recycling does not fix the problem."

There was a pause as he stewed on this.

"I know," I replied. "That's why I don't buy yogurt anymore. Don't get me wrong - I love me some good bacteria-infested milk - but I decided that I had to start considering not just the content of my food, but the packaging as well. Even my quasi-hippie friend JJ thinks I'm a bit nuts on this one. He says I can just use the containers as my tupperware; but I still can't seem to justify all that unnecessary plastic. I know, I know, I'm a crazy extremist... "

"No... No, I don't think so," Leland cut in, "I think that that is a radical form of protest... the sort we really need more of."

I gotta tell ya, it sure was good to hear something like that from an intellectual guy like Leland. I'm used to hiding these socially embarrassing behaviors of mine - like the fact that I won't wear antiperspirant because I don't want aluminum sulfate in my liver, or how I only ever buy other people's old clothes (and even that only after my old clothes are more hole than fabric). It is embarrassing to admit the way I turn off and unplug appliances, or how I don't have a cell phone because I can't really justify spending an extra bajillion dollars a month on another piece of landfill-bound plastic I absolutely do not need.

The problem, however, is again my understanding of the dubious value and effectiveness of my superhuman actions. As amazing as they obviously are, these tiny, itty-bitty, indistinguishable actions accomplish pretty much nothing at all; and as much as I try to live consistently with what I at least want my values to be, I inevitably fall just a little bit short. There is always a weensie bit more I could have done.

My friend Leland might say that I should not let it bother me - that guilt is a horrible motivator and that I cannot possibly bear the weight of the ecological sins of the world... and he would be right. I don't want to spend my life feeling guilty for things that are out of my control - but that still doesn't change my values or my failure-awareness.

Victor Frankl once said that people are like airplanes flying into a crosswind. To get where they want to go, he said, they have to fly off course, into the wind. Then and only then are they capable of arriving at their goal and achieving their potential. I will not clean up the oceans and I will not solve the drinking water crisis and I will not by the sweat of my brow become a messiah for the new generation. But I will attempt with every bucket of yogurt I do not eat to remember to live in greater and greater awareness of the fact that things are not all right and that I can make a difference, however small.

Therefore, I will say nuts to everybody who notices how nuts I am being and I will live on in my impossible dream... even if no one ever notices my billowing, invisible cape.


Popular Posts