"Everything is backwards now, like out there is the true world, and in here is the dream" Jake Sully , Avatar.
When I came back from Guatemala, I had a difficult time adjusting. In some ways, my trip was an escape. An escape from the muddled aimlessness my life had taken on. I worked part time at a farm and an ecological center, away from the concerns of the real world. Away from the cities and modern life, speaking Spanish and Kaqchikel. Despite the very real violence that I knew was happening there, and despite the poverty, I felt something there that I very seldom felt in the USA. Compassion.
Despite the wonders of modern life, the cell phones with email, bananas that come all year round, electric heat, modern life depresses me. Those small moments when I get out into nature, have real experiences, that is the real world.This world of commitments, of money, this world where I pollute and live and destroy, this world where I have endless chores, lists and commitments and where friends die of cancer and alcohol, that's not the real world.
Yet here I am. Here all of us are. In some ways I feel like Hollywood and movies distort reality, make us search after this elusive Neverland that could never exist. Make us participate in a story of riches that does not feed us. Maybe it gives us a feeling of entitlement. Makes us hope for a hero, a Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Batman, Superman or Woody Allen to save us.
One that never comes.
Like many others, I recycle. I compost. I have a small garden. But I still consume electricity and though sometimes I like to go to protests, sometimes I feel like it is all pointless. I feel weak. Confused. I watch more and more friends leave me, I watch the world change from a distance. I apply to another job for a freelance artist or at a nursery or even Target, hoping to find a way out.
When I was in Guatemala, at first, I was overwhelmed, then I became very sad. I was very sad because I saw the poverty and the vast income disparities as an extension of how we live here. I saw how we were responsible and how we were living off of the poverty of others. I wanted to help, but at the same time, I didn't know how.
One of my friends at the farm had the habit of giving the poor children of the village coins and bread, which only led them to beg more and more. I also saw the small villages with well-meaning churches and evangelicals who, despite their well meaning had taken away much of the villages autonomy. I also saw, in the strange light that can only be seen in another country the racism that is inherent in much of the modern world, in Guatemala, it was the Latinos who were rich and many of the Indigenous who were poor. The systems that were set up made it almost impossible to change that, despite well intentions. I came back to the USA full of love for the people, the culture, but also full of confusion, despair.
This coming weekend is Earth Day and I feel hopeful, but I want to be realistic, too. I think we've passed that point of no return. This record setting March cements it for me, although I have no scientific proof. The world is going to heat up no matter what we do, and it's going to take a long time to heal, possibly a few hundred years. Planting trees is a nice gesture, but it isn't what we need.
The Occupy Movement, the hope with the newest election, the growing awareness of environmental issues shows me that people care. But we don't need more guilt or shame or fear. We need acceptance. We need to stop blaming ourselves and start living in the dream.
To start living in the real world. I don't know exactly how, but I think in the beginning, things are not always clear, but we need to start living.
Like Jake Sully in Avatar, every single one of us.
Happy Earth Day!