I have found myself thinking more and more about consumption, and the costs of consumption. Is there anything I even really need that I do not already have, or have access to?
This manifests in different ways. Weekend trips to Goodwill and donations to Dress For Success after I have expressed gratitude for my clothes and shoes (as is the KonMari way). Riding my bike more and using congestion-causing ride-hailing services less. Finding and using tailors and cobblers. Buying less stuff, or trying to. “Shopping my closet”, or trying to. Unsubscribing from the manufactured FOMO of e-commerce emails Why am I so attached to emails I rarely even open? When I know that dress will not, in fact, change my life? Oh, but perhaps that belt will…
No one alive in 2019 can pretend to be unaware of the realities of the detritus of our habits, though we are excellent at avoiding taking responsibility for any of it. Nothing I do can be as bad as the scale of industrial pollution. I’m not the one building pipelines or telescopes on Indigenous land. I’m not the one setting the forests on fire. I’m not the one forcing underpaid workers to defend their employers on social media.
Being alive in 2019 - really, truly alive - acknowledging that, as Rita Dove put it, “we are responsible for the lives we change.” It means understanding that outcomes matter more than intent. It means taking a beat to think before we click, before we tap, before we buy, before we believe, before we share, before we decide. Who will this help, and how? Who will this harm, and how? Why this, why now? What might be possible, instead?
We are what we enable.
This alone is what I wish for you: knowledge.
To understand each desire has an edge,
to know we are responsible for the lives
we change. No faith comes without cost,
no one believes without dying.
Now for the first time
I see clearly the trail you planted,
what ground opened to waste,
though you dreamed a wealth
There are no curses – only mirrors
held up to the souls of gods and mortals.
And so I give up this fate, too.
Believe in yourself,
go ahead – see where it gets you.
— Demeter’s Prayer to Hades by Rita Dove