The parable of the wastebasket

A television comedienne I saw once talked of visiting the mall to buy a wastebasket for her new apartment. The clerk put her basket in a sack. She carried the sack home and then wadded it up and threw it in the new basket she had just bought. She threw up her hands, saying “What am I doing?!!!”

Hers is an apt parable for what we are up against. One really can’t blame the clerk, the store … or anyone, in particular. Such wasteful policies and practices are the result of countless incremental decisions and choices made thoughtlessly by all of us over a long period, the end results of which are fast destroying our planet’s life support systems. The reversal of such destructive ways will no doubt result from countless incremental decisions and choices made thoughtfully over time. Individual efforts to live with less waste do finally add up.

Part of our job description as simple living people is to keep at this task. It’s an important one. We must describe with our lives the future we want to see for our children. It may or may not be enough. The jury is out, and no one really knows what the verdict will be.

Over 150 years ago America's most famous pursuer of simple living, Henry David Thoreau, articulated in Walden his reasons for living in a one-room cabin built by himself in the woods near a pond: to savor life, to suck the marrow from its bornes, to live deliberately and sturdily. "I am convinced," he wrote," that to maintain oneself on this earth is not a hardship but a pastime, if we will live simply and wisely."

One thing I do know: simple living is a great adventure. It seems as through fro many of us it’s the only adventure left in a world that has become marketable and expendable to a thoughtless hucksterism that spreads like cancer. It’s an adventure like the late Edward Abbey describes in his blessing:

"May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poet’s towers into a dark primeval forest, through miasmal and mysterious swamps down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs … where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you – beyond that next turn of the canyon walls.”

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