Month: July 2010

Living in Another World

I’ve been in a real funk lately and feeling very disconnected from people. I have a physical ache in my chest and I can only describe it as a feeling of deep loneliness. Even though I’m surrounded by people, I want nothing more than to spend time with my family and given that we are isolated in another country, my family here equals Brendan and my dog Zoe. I haven’t been able to articulate what I’m feeling until I read this passage on Dave Pollard’s blog this morning. This very closely approximates what I’m feeling these days.

(H)aving rejected every notion of civilization culture, I no longer have anything to talk about with most people.

When I’m out in public I often listen to conversations, and what I hear is nothing but vapid time-wasting, echo-chamber reassurances, regurgitated propaganda, sob stories, unactionable rhetoric, appalling misinformation, self-aggrandizement, gossip, manipulation and denigration of others. I hear no new ideas or insights, no cogent discussion of how we can prepare for, and increase our resilience in the face of, the impending sixth great extinction and the economic, energy and ecological collapses that will push that extinction into overdrive and bring down the most expansive and least sustainable civilization in our species’ short history. And what else is worth talking about?

Yet, all around me, people who have not had the luxury of time and resources, as I have, to learn how the world really works, and what is really going on, and to imagine what we might do about it, and how we might live better, carry on as if nothing much is wrong and as if everything in our unsustainable and doomed culture somehow makes sense, and will somehow continue, and get better.

For much of my life I felt as if I were the one living in another, twilight world, shut off from everybody else, unable to make sense of, connect with and be part of the seemingly exciting world they lived in. But now I feel it is all these people, lost in illusion, who are in the twilight world, the one that makes no sense and has no substance. Part of me wants to rescue them, but part of me knows that they are not ready or able to listen, that their worldview is so utterly different from mine that it is as if we spoke unfathomably different languages.

There is a kind of comfort in learning so much, in being “too far ahead”, in knowing that I am more aware of the terrible truths of this world and of our time, than most people can or will ever be.
But it is a cold and lonely comfort, one suffused with grief and a sense of anomie, rootlessness, purposelessness, directionlessness. As I am reconnecting with all-life-on-Earth I am disconnecting from the culture I have known all my life, and all the people attached to it. It is a bleak and anti-social journey I am on, and knowing that it’s right, and inevitable, and will help me become nobody-but-myself again, is, at this frightening moment, small solace.

Photo by: gari.baldi

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Saying ‘Goodbye’ to America: Part 1

 

It’s been a long time since I’ve written a post on this here blog. The main reason is that I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. Sometimes writing helps my thinking, but recently thinking has been getting in the way of writing.

With five months to go until we leave the US and head back to Australia, I think I’m starting the process of saying goodbye to our home of the last few years. Everywhere we go now we take special notice of all the things we’ve loved about this country. On the flipside, all the things we’ve disliked have amplified recently and are driving us nuts. I thought it might be cathartic to start writing all these thoughts down.

  • I’m really going to miss where we live. We can walk to the shops, restaurants, brewery and cafes in about 5 minutes. I can ride to work in 10. We can ride to the library, bookshop, concerts in the park and most of our friends in 10 minutes. We can catch a ferry to the city and it only takes 15 minutes and is a lovely relaxing way to enjoy the evening or a sunny afternoon.
  • I’m going to miss all the fantastic events available here. Free local classes on gardening, bee-keeping, fermenting. Getting to sit in on lectures by people I found on the internet: Chris Martenson (The Crash Course) and Annie Leonard (The Story of Stuff). There is never any shortage of interesting things going on here. I worry that Australia is going to feel very ‘small’ in comparison. 
  • I’m going to miss the house we live in. It’s an older house on very little land, but it has three very mature orange trees and a dwarf apple tree. We’ve dug up the weeds surrounding the front courtyard, improved the soil with homegrown compost and now have a small but thriving vege patch. I’m going to miss that.
  • I’m going to miss morning walks along the Bay. I’ll miss seeing the ducklings grow up every year. I’ll miss the supersized seagulls which we don’t have in Australia.
  • I’ll miss the insects and birds that have now made a home in our garden. The bees, the hummingbirds, the Black Phoebe, even the caterpillars.
  • I’ll miss the people I work with. I work in an international office which means I make friends with people from all over the world. We also have some great parties. When the Spanish won the World Cup Final, we celebrate with fresh crunchy bread, salami, cheese, olive oil and Spanish Wine. For Bastille Day tomorrow, we are partaking in Croissants for breakfast. For Australia Day we have a huge BBQ with 300 of our closest friends! Canada Day: It’s Maple Syrup, Ice Wine and Moose Milk. Any Mexican holiday sees us eating tortillas and drinking tequila. And on and on it goes. With so many different countries represented here, we always have something to celebrate.
  • In general, Americans seem to be much ‘nicer’ than Australians. To your face at least, most Americans will be polite and friendly and will at least feign some interest in where you are from. I’ve become accustomed to people here commenting on your clothes, haircut etc and every now and then saying how nice you look. I don’t remember that ever happening in Australia…except maybe my wedding day and that was mandatory for all attending. 

 

  • On the other hand, I’ve found that Americans are not necessarily very genuine with their feelings. It takes a long time to get beneath the veneer. Australian’s generally are fairly honest about that sort of thing (sometimes painfully so), so I initially found it difficult to adjust to the difference in culture. I had an American friend who was clearly (to me) having a very bad day, but she painted on a smile and everyone around her chose to believe it. It’s a little weird and to be honest it makes it hard to believe people when they say anything to you. In general, ‘let’s catch up’ does not mean there will be any effort made. ‘Party starts at 6pm’ means that people will arrive between 6:30 and 7pm. Most Americans will leave soon after desert is served (usually by 10pm), while the Australians, Canadians, Spanish and Finnish will still be there at 2am. It took some time work out that this is not personal and to not be offended by it.
  • The sheer amount of waste here is heartbreaking. Lawns are watered every day (we live in the desert) and most of the time the sidewalk and street are liberally watered as well. People leave the hose running down the gutter while washing the car. The amount of trash is incompressible. The garbage bins (trash cans) in our street are easily six times the size of what we had in Australia and are often overflowing with waste. People here at work will use Styrofoam plates and plastic forks for lunch, even though I brought in real plates and cutlery for everyone to use. It does my head in.
  • I’m flabbergasted at the size of the SUV’s around here; usually with one passenger. Hummers. ‘Nuff said.
  • The bureaucracy here is unbelievable. Forms are lengthy and not intuitive. The banking system is archaic by western standards (although getting better). Telecommunications companies are frustrating to deal with. Anything that involves the Government seems to take forever and never works easily. Some days I seriously want to scream at the ineptitude. Lately, I just have to laugh and shake my head instead. Otherwise I’ll go crazy.
  • Important mail goes missing about 50% of the time. Unacceptable.

Anyway, that’s probably enough sharing for today. I’ll probably revisit this theme on occasion during the next five months.

Photo by: Der Ohlsen