I’m rereading Colin Beavan’s No Impact Man right now. I mentioned it in the “Ask Unclutterer: Best methods for recycling” post a couple weeks ago, and decided to reread it when I saw it on my bookshelves a few days later. I’m not much of an environmentalist — I’ve never tried to save the whales, or even just one whale — but simple living advocates and proponents of waste reduction often find themselves in the same professional circles. I thought Beavan’s words might have something to inspire me in the work I do, and I was correct.
Beavan’s book, with the phrase “save the planet” in the extended title, is more about saving himself than saving the Earth. It’s obvious from the first page of the text he doesn’t know what he wants from life. He feels disconnected, like he’s only going through the motions of living, and that his priorities are out of whack. He wants to make a change for the better, and living without impacting the environment is more of his path to discovering what matters most.
The similarities between choosing to live without distractions (being an unclutterer) and choosing to live without damaging the planet (being an environmentalist) are arbitrary since both, at least in this case, end up in the same place: a remarkable life. When Beavan talks about his previous habit of constantly eating out at fast-food restaurants, he’s really talking about getting rid of the clutter so that he can focus on what matters most to him. From pages 45 and 46:
So much of my trash-making and waste is about making convenient the taking care of myself and my family. It’s about getting our needs out of the way. But is this so? When did taking care of ourselves become something so unimportant that it should be got out of the way rather than savored and enjoyed? When did cooking and nourishing my family become an untenable chore? What is more important that I’m supposed to do instead?
He continues on page 47:
Even modern replacements for priests, rabbis, and Zen masters — the positive psychologists — have something to say on this point. That new breed of shrinks has discovered that happy people spend a lot of time being grateful for what they have and savoring their experience. They don’t rush through “now” to get to later. They don’t make taking care of themselves or taking care of their families something they have to get over with so they can get to the good stuff. Instead, they insist that this moment, whatever it is, is the good stuff.
What is it that matters most to you? What is your vision for a remarkable life? What path are you taking to get there?
These are all good questions, with limitless sets of answers, and ones that I keep asking myself and discerning on a regular basis. If you’re searching for a more remarkable life, maybe they’re questions you also want to be asking yourself.