The NY Times ran an article on the 17th about refill shops. (Thank you to all the people who sent it to me. I in fact did not see it on Sunday so I appreciate the heads up!) The last paragraph of the article reminded me that I intended to write about convenience in a newsletter months ago, and this statement rekindled that desire. Here is the statement in case you can't access the article:
“It’s incredible that we, as a society, feel entitled to create garbage that will last forever for something we’re going to use for 90 minutes in aggregate. That is an insane paradigm.”
I am sure we can all agree that using something that is disposible after one or two uses is one of the ways our lives have become more convenient.
My teacher recently challenged us to investigate what we lose for the sake of convenience. Naturally I have been thinking about this, and found that a second part to that question- How do I resort to entitlement and privilege to make things more convenient? If we agree that convience costs us something, does it makes sense if we add entitlement to it, the payment will be higher?
I want to come clean by admitting that I bank at "America's most convenient bank" (as their tag line goes). I can't say for sure its more convinent for all people, but it is right downtown, and that makes it easy for me. I just checked and saw that TD Bank does not win any awards for investing in ethical businesses. They do not make any of the top 15 lists of eithical banks. I recall a friend withdrawing all of her money out of TD bank a while ago for this reason. While I thought that was very courageous of her, I was not willing to go through the effort of following her lead. I figured that since she was wealthy and didn't work she had the time to do this, and so her privilege allowed her the freedom to make an ethical choice. But it was also my privilege that allowed me to not change since I did not feel directly impacted by the investments the bank makes. Actually my privilege allowed me to not even know how TD invests their (my) money.
Do we fail ourselves when we choose convenience? If there is something we truly believe in, but we choose not to do it because it is out of our way, or too hard, or no one else is doing it, how will that sit in our heart? It is a good question to ask ourselves, if we can do so in a non-judgmental way. And the kicker is to not judge all the people who are not doing what we see as right action. We have enough work to do inside this head of ours, foisting our morally correct action on others is just distracting us for cleaning up our own house. This part is not easy, believe me I know that! Do I cringe when I see people buying plastic water bottles by the case? (Which to me is very different than buying one once in a while if you forgot to bring your own.) Did I chastise my husband for bringing home yet another large bottle of Panteen conditioner? (Check the blog for the first part of that fun story). Am I surreptitiously leaving coupons for Eco Loka at houses that I see have plastic buckets of plastic pods in their laundry rooms? Yes, yes yes!! Guilty on all accounts. While these encounters inspire me to keep up the work of telling people about the plastics problem, and providing a possible solution, they also remind me to not be in the place of pointing a finger. Instead, I strive to see where I allow convience to forgo following through with the work it takes to do and be what my heart tells me to do. The foundation of a yoga practice is effort, self study and surrender (yoga sutras chapter 2 verse 1). All of this falls under that. While I would like to point a finger at the USA for being the number 2 country for carbon emissions, I also have to see when I am driving needlessly. Is it because I think my 100-mile trip in the car is going to make a difference in the 5,416 million tons of CO2 that we emit in a year? No. However, it makes a difference to my heart to not just be the one who points, but to be the one who acts.
In the Bhagavad Gita, seeking "right action" is explained by Krishna to Arjuna. Krishna emphasizes that it is not just about knowing what to do (consider how easy life would be if we always knew what to do!) but also when to do it. Krishna is really teaching Arjuna how to be a "right actor". The work we need to do to become a right actor (the one who knows what action is for the highest good and when to do it) is never convenient. And, it never includes the "you should be doing this!" In the beginning of the story we see Arjuna as willing to pay for what he thought was right action with his reputation of being a fearless warrior. By the end of the book Arjuna is willing to place not only his life on the line for right action, but the lives of all the people he loves and respects. We are usually not asked to pay such a high price! Once we start to see the hidden cost of not responding to right action, we might be willing eschew convenience for something that requires a bit more work.