japanlife

We are never alone. We never do anything by ourselves. We are all connected. If you think about how much we are all inter-connected we would be much kinder to one another. Take something as simple as a one single food group from a meal and trace the lineage of how it got to your table. It puts things into perspective. We have never ever done anything alone without someone’s help.

Let’s trace the path of the broccoli that I ate last night. First, there is the person who brought the seed to the farm. Next there is the person who planted the broccoli seed. How about the family who raised the person who brought the seed and planted the seed? If it were not for them these two people would not be doing what they are doing. Then there is the person who picked the broccoli and someone had to box it. Who made the boxes where did they come from? Then there is the shipping, whether local or from overseas, either by truck of plane. Who drove the truck or flew the plane? Then there are the people who made the truck or plane. Finally it arrives at the supermarket. Somebody unloaded and placed the broccoli on the shelves of your local supermarket. Oh and don’t forget the check out person. Think about all these people involved in broccoli!

I’ve tracked one food group on the plate that I had for dinner. Think about tall the food groups on the plate and every single meal you have eaten up to this moment of your life. That’s food. What about things? Try tracking the lineage of one thing. You begin to realize that nobody in the grand scheme of things is any more important than anyone else. And we are all in it together helping one another along. Most people do not think in these terms. I would say it is one of many reasons why there are so many narcissists and ego driven people in the world. As a result end up exploiting others for their gain knowing that they can get away with it. A person picking the broccoli to bring to the supermarket is as important as a CEO of a company. The only difference, the CEOs wrote the narrative in their favor.

Now I do not go around tracking the lineage of every item I come across. It is humbling knowing the truth that I have never done anything on my own and I am not important.

This brings me to the next point. What we do is not important. Yet, it is important we do it to the best of our ability with the fullest attention to mind and heart. Knowing we did the best we could makes the outcome less important. Putting so much attachment to being important both defines us and reinforces our story. What happens if a situation like a job changes? Because we were so wrapped up in the job we lose the story line and become lost. This is in large part the cause of depression, disease and the unwillingness for people to change. You can hear it in individuals if you pay attention to the words they choose and how they say it. You can hear it coming from that place of ego. It’s what I call the voice of attachment. Knowing that our true place in the world is on level par with everyone else, then it does not matter what happens. We are here to support one another. We cannot hold on to what defines us because it will change. We may mourn the change for a bit and then move on knowing something else will come along. And there will be others there to support you.


Advertisements

The topic of global warming came to me during an early morning bike ride along the trustworthy Tamagawa River. Tucked in behind a not-so-powerful moped reaching a speed of 40 km (25mph), in an instant the image of my life as a 16 year old in my hometown of Edina, Minnesota popped into my mind.

My first decent bike was a 10-speed Trek and main mode of transportation. While I was excited to have a cool bike, all of my friends had mopeds. Edina was a middle, upper middle class community and at the forefront of cool and fashionable items to have – mopeds, Adidas shoes, Ralph Lauren and Levi’s. I had a bicycle, Adidas knockoffs and JC Penney Garanimal brand clothing. Consequently, for the longest time I felt I had the short end of the stick. Over time I reconciled the poor me syndrome and even came to see that it was a good life and learning to appreciate what I had.

As often is the case, my friends would call me up, “hey Al,” they called me Al (like Al Gore) in those days, “we are going to so and so’s house, wanna go?” I was glad to be invited despite having a ten-speed bike. We gathered at a prearranged meeting place. Arriving with their spiffy looking mopeds resembling heaven’s angels off we’d go.  Before hitting the road, my friends would have to first start up their mopeds. I on the other hand got a head start with my bicycle. After a few minutes they would catch up and zoom past without slowing up. The onus was on me to stay close. I quickly learned the best way was to jump in behind one of the mopeds and use the draft to maintain speed. Often my friends would gun the moped to try and drop me, but the faster they went the easier it was for me to lock in my position. They were quite impressed.

As I reflect on this period of my life I realized just like the other Al that I was combating global warming long before it was fashionable. This must have been just around the time Al Gore started to make global warming his life’s purpose and long before “Inconvenient Truth.” Everywhere I went I rode my bike. Not only was I an unsuspecting pioneer, but this was also training for when I would eventually become a semi-professional bike racer a decade later. Unbeknownst at the time, the experience would also influence my thinking and choices later in life.

I lived in NYC for eight years without a car and now Tokyo for nearly fourteen. That’s a combined total of twenty plus years of not having to participate in the slow degradation of our planet and paying for gas, maintenance, car loans and insurance. Of course I cannot put a number on the effects automobiles have on the planet over time, I’ll leave that to the scientists, but I can on the tangible costs. If I bought a car every five years at the cost of $15,000 – conservative total price = $60,000. Monthly maintenance costs including oil changes and tune-ups = $40,000. Gas based on daily use – $20.00 per week for another conservative cost = $50,000. Insurance – $400/month is equal to nearly $100,000 provided I was accident free. The grand underestimated total of not owning a car for 20+ years, drum roll…at least $250,000 without taking into consideration inflation. Needless to say, what a racket! Before continuing, I do want to state for the record that each time I return to the US once a year for summer vacation I rent a car for a week or two at a time, but that is the extent of my participation.

Now many will say, “but you do other things that contribute to climate change.” This “do things to perfection” argument is just a way of justifying choices one makes and in my opinion does not hold up – we have a choice. Riding my bike, not owning a car, walking, taking the train, air drying my clothes, using pocket size hand towels instead of paper towels to dry my hands, buying locally, the list goes on and on. I am not perfect and I am always tweaking my life in order to minimize my footprint.

Let me ask you, what are you doing not to permanently destroy our future?