I had the disconcerting experience the other day of picking up a novel to read, and then setting it aside, completely disinterested. I didn’t have the slightest desire to read about imaginary people and places. Having just finished several collections of essays and articles, one by by Kurt Vonnegut and one by Alice Walker, I thought I had satisfied whatever craving it was that prompted me to pick up those books in the first place. I thought I could go back to my normal reading fare. I was wrong. No piece of fiction could satisfy my sudden urge to consume facts and learn something about the world around me.
I went to the library and picked up two new books – Safe Trip to Eden: Ten Steps to Save Planet Earth from the Global Warming Meltdown, by David Steinman, and Hope’s Edge: The Next Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappe and Anna Lappe. I came home and settled on the couch and read the first 10 pages of each book, and then sighed with relief. This was what my mind craved.
I am realizing that the trouble that has touched my life recently has somehow been exactly the sort of “rude shock” that Frances Moore Lappe describes in her book.
“Something must shake us up, rattle us out of our resignation or depression, or simply galvanize that vague sense that there must be more to life. Something must create internal dissonance.”
Oh, I’m full of internal dissonance now! Whereas before I was apt to believe that the world was falling apart and there was little or nothing I could do to help it, now I find that I was, once again, just absorbing the ideas of people around me. This winter as I have wandered the paths and trails of Acadia, and have seen nature come to life for me in an entirely new way, I have discovered how much I love it and how much I care about what happens to it, what happens to the wild places of the earth, to the earth itself, and the people who dwell here.
I have found that my head has been cleansed of the thoughts and ideas of others. My mind has been de-cluttered, and my old resignation and stagnation have been swept out the door. I find myself open and ready for new thoughts, and yes, full to overflowing with “internal dissonance”.
“In such special moments, we can choose. Do we suppress the discomfort? Or do we listen to it, delve into the disconnect, and make the leap necessary to put the world together in a new way?”
Putting behind me my days of inaction and ignorance and selfish uncaring, I choose to leap. I resolve to look at the rapidly deteriorating world around me, and see it with the eyes of hope. I choose to question the ideas that I have accepted all my life, and I choose to believe that there IS something I can do, that I CAN make a difference.
Maybe there aren’t truly “Ten Steps to Save the Planet”. Maybe this is as scary a place as I’ve always thought, trying to move forward without a map. I choose to stay here though, in this moment of liberating dissonance, “making the path as [I] walk.”