Saturday, November 08, 2008

Our way of life is unsustainable and sad

I met a friend for lunch in Ventura today. I arrived early and sat on a bench outside the restaurant. While waiting, I observed the people arriving for lunch. What I noticed made me convinced that our way of life is unsustainable and sad.

Almost everyone who arrived to the restaurant was obese or morbidly obese. Many of them could barely walk. Some had swollen ankles like elephant legs. Some used canes. Most struggled to cross the parking lot, limping, hobbling or obviously in some kind of pain. When I walked the PCT we hikers would also hobble and limp across parking lots, but we had a look of health and aliveness. We were thin and strong. These people were sick.

I was observing what a lifetime of sedentary behavior and overconsumption can do to a person. It destroys health and limits the quality of life. Our overconsumption robs us of life while it is killing the planet. It is unsustainable and sad.

I met my friend and we talked about work. She works for a friendly company as a technical writer. She showed me the interesting things she does with XML to build different kinds of technical documentation. She used to run her own business and still does some freelance work on the side. At her company she is kind of like a free-agent inside the company. I, too, am a free-agent, working a couple of part-time jobs while I do freelance work on the side. I believe that in the future most of us with any specialized skills will be free-agents. Companies will be full of contractors or made up of small, entrepreneurial mini-companies. It is the only way I can see for people to stay current in technology and excited and alive about work and life.

Being a free-agent seems more sustainable to me than chaining people to cubicles with threats of loss of job, loss of promotions or other mind-games. Sure the money is nice, but it's in exchange for too much living. It seems unsustainable and sad to make people sit all day in an artificial environment. Cube farms breed people who limp swollen across parking lots to overeat deep fried fish or fill up their SUVs with unnecessary crap at big box stores. Or it breeds people who live their lives in fear, waking up every day convinced they will be fired. People who are awake and alive like me, like other PCT hikers, cannot abide a life like this. We need less. Less so that we can live more.

Less is the secret to living. Once enough people learn this secret, our way of life will become sustainable and fulfilling again.

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