Change of Heart

(photo by E.)

Again and again this is my fear: not so much of our being judged in the future as having been the last generation to possess the potential and the possibility–even if hugely diminished by the trajectory, momentum, and infrastructure of all the generations that preceded ours–to effect change of the most profound kind: not a change in knowledge, but in entire systems of logic, or even further, changes within the heart.

–Rick Bass

A change of heart or of values without a practice is only another pointless luxury of a passively consumptive way of life.

–Wendell Berry

When people ask me why we are taking this plastic fast, the easiest answers to articulate are the surface things. There’s our concern about the pollution associated with plastic manufacturing, the ocean’s plastic soup, the ramifications of a disposable consumer society, and the risks posed by plastics to human and environmental health.

But the truth is, I’m not doing this because of my concern about hormone disruptors leaching from the linings of tin cans (though I still think this is a good reason to avoid plastics, hormone disruptors are, sadly, so prevalent as to be unavoidable). It’s not because I think forgoing tortillas in plastic bags will save the lives of a marine turtle (my concern about the gyres is very real, but my contribution to it from New Mexico, where our rivers hardly make it out of town, let alone all the way to the sea, is negligible.) I am concerned about our plastic filled landfills contaminating ground water, but when we have plutonium waste up and down the other side of the watershed, it seems a bit nitpicky. So why plastic? Why bother?

Until I read the lines quoted above, it wasn’t easy for me to articulate the real reason behind our plastic fast. But it’s simple: We had a change of heart. Which changed our lives.

Yes, certainly — of course — we are undertaking this action as a symbolic protest and act of solidarity with the earth. But, as one of my pragmatic friends pointed out, plastic is not really the problem.

We are.

The reason we are doing this is because it was time to do something. Something more than we ever had before. Something we didn’t think was possible. Something that reflected our desire to live with less convenience and more intention. As in, intention that our grandkids will know we started waking up, and started changing our ways. Even in symbolic ways. Or especially in symbolic ways.

I know it is enormously overwhelming when we start thinking of all the things we think we should be doing, that we want to do. Where to begin? Where to end? (Is there an end point?) For us, plastic was the starting place. It could have been anything, really. But it was this. A small, simple action that nevertheless felt like a powerful way to change our lives. And it has, friends. It has.

There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground, Rumi said. Same goes for living more lightly. All we need to do is touch our hearts, and begin.