My lab life consists of a deeply satisfying ritual. While fully taking apart and cleaning my experimental facility after each experiment, I listen to The Story (or On Being if I've listened to The Story already). A couple of days ago, I listened to the story of Angela Walters, who has been collecting pictures of the lives of the people of Joplin, Missouri, the town that was demolished by a massive tornado six months ago (see video below). Her effort has been trying to get these pictures back to the people of Joplin, in an effort to preserve the history of the place.
Walters mentioned in her interview that the one thing that people regret most when some event like a tornado occurs is not the loss of their material objects, but rather of the memories captured in photographs. I found this to be so poignant, as obvious as it may seem.
We live our daily lives doing things that aren't really important to us, materially and spiritually. When it comes down to it, what we value most in our lives is not that we had an iPod or the latest computer, but the times we spent with other people. Why then, do we continue to invest vast amounts of time and effort doing things we do not want?
We are stuck in a mindless slavery and cycle of our daily lives. I find it disappointing that it must always come down to a calamity or some freak event that makes us reorganise our lives and our priorities. Think about how much more lightly we could tread on our Earth, how much more community we could build, if we constantly reminded ourselves that what matters most is not materialism, but rather good time spent with people we care about, not engaged in material exchange, but rather, just being? How might this unfold on the world that is beyond our immediacy, both in space and time?
I believe it would be powerful for us to have a daily meditation on what is most important to us, and act accordingly, as much as we can. The effects of such a meditation, of a change in our behaviour cannot be expected to be immediate, but they might be. We won't know if we don't try. If you are to tell yourself each morning that what is most important to you are your family and your watershed, then you will act accordingly. You may not buy that make-up or eye-liner or chemical bathroom cleaner if we think that those things will contaminate the water you drink. If you were to start all over again, as the people in Joplin may have had to, where would you start? How would you proceed? How would we proceed?