Enough Grows

By Mary Hendrie

Opinion

This post is excerpted from my blog Not an Activist, which I started in response to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico this summer. Please visit the blog to learn more. Thanks!

I’m beginning to wonder if it’s really possible to “do enough.”

Yesterday, I realized that to some folks I may look like a real hippy-dippy, granola weirdo, which was a funny thought for me since lately I seem unable to shake the feeling that I’m simply not doing enough. I’m not living quite the eco-friendly lifestyle I thought I could. True, I’m working toward some major changes, but they all happen slowly. One doesn’t just become a yoga teacher and quit commuting over night. Rather, there is money to be saved, training to be endured, and a clientele to be built before teaching yoga is really a viable career option. And yes, that’s where I’m headed, but who knows when I’ll get there.

Meanwhile, I usually eat lunch near my office at one of the three places that are close enough to walk to during my break. But I get sick of the repetition, and yesterday I wanted Subway, which is a little further than I can reasonably walk in the amount of time I have. I joked somewhat lamely that I was really living on the edge by going to Subway for a change. The office administrator was kind enough to laugh unconvincingly, but truthfully, I felt pretty conflicted about going.

At Subway, I pulled up in my Prius, walked in and ordered a veggie patty on wheat bread, piled high with lettuce and spinach. I declined the use of a plastic bag to carry out my order and gently placed the paper-wrapped sandwich in my oversize purse instead. I did accept the combo deal … because I love Sun Chips. But I didn’t use a lid or a straw for my soda cup.

On the way out, I thought I felt the eyes of the other patrons on my back. It could’ve been because I was exceptionally well dressed, or they might have been thinking I was a real eco-douchebag (I promise you will love this article by J.B. MacKinnon, who is not a douchebag). But the funny thing to me was that while on the surface, perhaps to the uninitiated, I might have looked like a real do-gooder, I didn’t feel like one.

I still drove to get the food. I still used their waxy paper. I still used the paper cup. I still ate the chips from the weird composite bag.

Once you become aware of the materials you use on a regular basis, it’s hard to justify using them even once in a while. If they are non-recyclable, or if they are made from non-renewable resources every single use feels like a transgression. Yes, I was enjoying a vegetarian lunch, driving a hybrid and avoiding plastic waste, but the fact that I drove there at all felt like I was doing something wrong. It was a little like sneaking out of the house in high school, only without the devilish thrill.

So, as I was having what might have looked like a very green lunch break yesterday, I realized that there is a massive disparity between what most people probably consider “green living” and what I think is “doing enough.” And the truth is, I don’t think it’s possible for very many people to do enough. I think most of us are capable of making these surface changes like what I’ve made so far, but many people aren’t even doing that.

But how much of a difference could we make if all of us just did the very basics? Recycle, avoid plastics, drive less, eat less meat.

MacKinnon notes in his article that switching to power-saving light bulbs hasn’t had quite the impact on our electricity consumption that we hoped, which makes me wonder if what I’m doing is a waste of time or worse — hypocritical. Still, I can’t help feeling that not trying at all would be a far greater waste.

There are two questions for me now:

  1. How do I continue to make small changes that will add up to something meaningful?
  2. How do I (or can I) reach those folks who aren’t yet doing anything? After all, it will take much more than just myself to make a difference.

The garish glass monstrosity directly above the front door of a typical McMansion—its distinguishing feature—is called a Palladian window.Although in the real estate patois McMansions are known as Colonials, the Palladian window is a more recent innovation, with roots in the so-called Adam style of the Victorian period.

BLACK ROCK CITY, NV-

Your boots are white with dust as fine as talc. Insidious stuff. Your legs, your arms, your face, whatever clothing you have decorated your body with – all are white, silty and dry. Your skin reacts to the alkaline, shrinking, drying, withering, trying to escape it. But there is no escape. The dust is everywhere – in your eyes, your lungs, your ears, in every nook of your body, in every cranny, in every fold of fabric that adorns you, everywhere you look… your world is white. And so you trudge across this white world, this wide expanse of nothingness, bracing yourself against the whirling-dervish winds, staring blindly into the invisibility that surrounds you. You are cocooned in the nothing, strangely safe and yet completely assailable.

You have never felt more alone, more surrounded by love, or more alive. Your vulnerability is your greatest strength.

This post-apocalyptic landscape strengthens your resolve and buffers your sense of self.

You are at The End of the Earth.

Welcome Home.


You catch a glimpse of moving structures and beings through the whiteness. A creature looms, a fluffy rabbit drives by helmed by a renegade cast of characters, a half-naked hula-hooper spins into view and vanishes again, a goggled and masked humanoid passes on a feathered bicycle and disappears into the cloud, something indescribably weird happens and you can only shake your head in wonder. There is much that is indescribable here. Indecipherable, unimaginable… you know that you will have a hard time convincing others of the perfection of this very imperfect place and you shrug. You are not, nor will you ever be, a missionary.

Noises abound. The wind howls over whoops and yells. There is music everywhere. Guitar screams, thumping bass, a violin…. a violin? Nothing you expect and everything you could ever imagine – if you were insane. For this is madness. Barely organized chaos. Insanity. The bizarre, the beautiful, the grotesque, the amazing.

Onward you move.

As the light fades so does the wind. The roar and force abates but the madness doesn’t. The power of nature is replaced by the power of humanity and technology as a whole new world reveals itself to your eyes.

The white-out is over.

You remove your dust-mask, your goggles, your methods of protection. You look around and, in the fading desert sunset, in the dusky twilight of the Nevada gloaming, this is what you see-

Magic.

All around you are lights of every color. Red and blue and gold and green. Static, flashing. The lights belong to structures that pump sound out into your environment. You are far from these lights but they surround you completely. You are in a womb of blinking neon.

A pirate ship on wheels passes by. A silver Sphinx crosses its path in a near collision. The fluffy rabbit returns. Someone waves and smiles. You return the greeting.

A rocket approaches and the feeling you are having of being a traveler to another planet intensifies. Perhaps you are on the set of a science-fiction epic? Perhaps you are a warrior on the barren plains of another world? Perhaps you are a god or goddess, a king or a queen, a survivor of the apocalypse… one of The Last?

Or maybe you are just you and you feel different? Bigger, stronger, more alive…. more capable and inspired. Your reality is altered.

The possibilities are endless.

In the distance you see your destination. Your bunny-ears twitch and a smile illuminates the twilight.

Look!

Your feet skip a dance to a tall Moroccan tent filled with laughing people. Cocktails are poured, trays of food pass under your nose. You partake, feasting, drinking, soaking it up.

The person you love is grinning. He/she looks beautiful, radiant, alive and very, very dusty. You have never loved more deeply or with more detachment to an outcome.

Your heart is full.

Your friends are happy.

Small worries fade away.

A new perspective emerges.

Your life seems suddenly complete.

You have evolved somehow and a strange new sentiment is birthed within you.

“All is as it should be.”

You know you will remind yourself of these words in the near future whenever a cab is late, a drama unfolding, a person pushing your buttons or things not going your way. You know you may temporarily forget these words, but that they will come back to you more and more, and that from this moment on you are changed.

You have become lighter and happier and less touchable by Stuff.

You have survived the storms, transcended yourself and walked through fire.

You are at Burning Man and your world will never seem the same again.

If you would like to see a video of our time at Black Rock City, Nevada then please click the following link. The movie was made by Ron Kurti and stars himself, his father, our friend Udi (who took all of these beautiful pictures) and yours truly.

BURNING MAN 2008

It is a perfect memory made into a whimsical and beautiful little film. Please enjoy and feel free to leave a comment on either of our pages. Hearing stories of your own experiences on the Playa would be wonderful and if you have any questions which might inspire you to go then I’d love to help answer them. xx