Internal Peace, External Chaos
How truly at peace can we be, when our futures are in jeopardy?
Happy festive/cold/winter season – I hope wherever you’re reading this from is as cosy and calm as can be.
I’m about to venture into a brave new step of blogging. I’m going to write about the Real World™. Namely, the environment.
I know, things are about to get dangerous as I mix the contemplative with the real. And just like mixing drinks, I’m not sure this is a good idea. Yet here we are nonetheless. Perseverance is key and all of that.
It seems that at the grand age of twenty-four I’ve only just begun to acknowledge how I relate to the environment. And just how frequently I think about it.
As a child, I grew up in rural Kerry – a county in the South West of Ireland, on the coast. I live in Galway (still west, a little less south) now and chose to go to Galway for university, knowing that ‘hustle and bustle’ Dublin would not suit my mind. That’s a pleasant euphemism for sheer and utter chaos, in case you’re wondering. I need space between myself and the closest person on the street or else I begin to feel like I can’t think straight because otherwise my mind is filled with a closeness I can’t ignore.
That sounds melodramatic, and it kind of is, but it’s also a truth I’ve only recently stopped beating myself up over. Galway is still lively and busy, creative and quirky, but a little less city-like where I feel like my lungs can fully expand.
Alas, Galway was the perfect choice and I’ve never once regretted it.
Now that I work and am doing my Masters in Galway, in such a welcoming and comforting spot for me from when I first moved here six years ago, I’m starting to look at this place I love with new eyes.
Maybe it’s getting older or maybe it’s just Twitter threads and the actual unbidden influence of Instagram influencers sneakily making me aware of these issues, but I swear that every piece of litter I see on the street or every single use plastic I find myself using makes me feel a little queasy.
I’ve always been sensitive. My mom can tell you all about it as she says that she often didn’t know what was the right thing to do with me as a child because there didn’t seem to be a situation that I didn’t feel personally.
In an ode to the sensitivity that is only increasing with age, I recently described one of the reasons I’m a vegan to one of my friends by saying that one of the reasons I was vegan was ‘because I sometimes feel as though the weight of the those animals’ suffering settles on my shoulders.’ Like, I can feel it all, all the time.
Recently, the environment’s health became the same – as paramount as my own, which is the most basic form of survival, it is. I started asking myself, how can I be at peace internally when I’m not doing my best to find peace with my external environment?
The problem is that at least with being vegan, there is a majority of the community who understands why I do it, even if they themselves tell me frequently that they wouldn’t never be vegan. They can understand animal suffering because it’s a death of a living thing. But STILL it’s a taboo topic to some people and certainly something I don’t mention in most situations. Definitely not as much as I should, considering just how heavy that weight on my shoulders feels.
The number of people who view the environment as the same – the slow and painful death of a living system – is so much smaller. An animal tangibly living and can be understood that way. The grass beneath our feet and the water’s at our coastline, less so.
But the fact of the matter is that every minute of animal agriculture, every coffee cup we unwittingly throw into the recycling bin to only spoil tonnes of perfectly good recyclables and every endless switch on of the tap is choking us.
We’re holding our own necks and squeezing tighter with every choice. But it’s fine, our lungs have an infinite capacity, right?
I wonder where this senseless indoctrination comes from. Something I was such a part of for an overwhelming majority of my life.
Yes we know it’s bad, yes we can say ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ like we know the half of the Alive-O songs from primary school. But we don’t feel it enough to live it.
If we did, the campaigning for change would never stop. In truth, we wouldn’t need to campaign because there would be no naysayers. The anger at the death of our own descendants would cease.
Yet. We’re passive.
Yes, there is work being done. And those doing much more that I personally should be doing – so I so too deserve to be called out for my ill actions too.
The work being done by those organisations, communities, families and individuals is tremendous.
But here’s the crux of the matter – it’s not collective. It might be a community campaigning for change, but it’s not a global community.
Can any great change take place in the world without seamless unity? Enforcing isn’t good enough – persistence with rigidity and a lack of free will only inspires resistance. It has to come from our morals.
If we all thought of the Good of Us as informing the Good of Self, our world shift in an infinite number of ways. A shift of consciousness that could literally alter the planet overnight.
Instead it is the momentary, fleeting Good of Self that comes first for most of us.
Perhaps instead of seeing someone discard a crisp packet on the street and think, who would do such a thing, allowing out high horse to get only higher, we should ask why am I not picking it up?
At what point are we just finger pointers and not change makers? Was that condemnation of a stranger’s littering only an opportunity to remind ourselves of just how good and moral we ourselves are, by way of ridding ourselves of responsibility over it?
We cannot change that person who litters or doesn’t believe in climate change. God knows, I wish we could. But we can change our actions and shift our consciousness from being a comparison game where our slant declares us permanent winners, to a new way of thinking with an instant question – what can I do that is for the Good of Us, right now?
I don’t have all of the answers. Nor have I begun making all of the changes I need to. But I know this:
When someone tells me, as they have done, that I am taking on the woes of the world too much in thinking of animal and environmental suffering, I will agree. I know that this is true.
But I will never agree with anyone who says that this is bad. I am not paralysed by the weight on my shoulders, but motivated by it. It is empathy, duty and a sign that I am awake. I challenge them to ask just how little they may feel of these issues and to examine why. What has taken or reduced their empathy for our future generations?
If our interest in Self is so large, then how can we care so little about what we eat and consume and dispose? Perhaps because we will likely not live long enough to see out the effects and a future child that is out of reach is an unknown variable and therefore, not today’s concern.
This is a thought process I will likely grapple with for the rest of my life. Yet it is not a burden to bare but a reminder of my power to enact change.
I am confident when I say that it is my pleasure and honour to think consciously and act empathetically on behalf of this utterly, beautiful world.
I hope you will join me, with empathy.
As always, I appreciate you hearing my thoughts and would be honoured to listen to yours.
Admin Note –
If you’re wondering why I haven’t been writing as much, I am currently working full time and doing a masters degree at the same time and unfortunately this time of year is the most hectic. I’m hoping to get back to a regular routine soon though!