So we did indeed do our cooking and our bike riding, but best of all, we did a little exploring. After the rest of the family hopped a plane back to greener pastures, my mom and I hit the road north, to spend the night in an Earthship. (Photos here.)
I suppose this could just be a diverting trip to an unusual hotel. I could leave it at that… but you know me. Being possessed of an almost pathological compulsion to think deep thoughts, and being snarled in the long process of crafting my own future, this trip was bound to become part of the larger, ongoing a-musing that occupies so much of my frontal lobe these days.
Let me see if I can distill this down, fish the gold bits outta the pan…
Economics, the way we currently play that game, seems more and more to me simply another word for bondage. Entered into willingly (albeit ignorantly), and with gilded, velvet-lined bonds, maybe, but bondage nonetheless. The genius of the game, though, is that marketeers have married in our minds those chains with notions like freedom and independence–it’s your stuff that sets you free. And so we gleefully pull the chains a little tighter, and believe the slogans.
A little voice somewhere inside me started crying Hogwash a long time ago, and she’s only been getting louder.
I’ve dutifully played my part as money filter–passing dollars from employer to debtor for years on end, skimming off the leftover gunk for myself–but I think it’s time to slip outta this system altogether. Or better yet, to Rube Goldberg me another contraption, one that has a beating human heart at the center, instead of hunks of cheap plastic and glitter.
What I’ve been simmering on that hot plate in the back of my mind looks like an implosion or inversion of the American Dream–the house, the property isn’t the end of the means; it becomes part of the spinning gears of the means themselves. The end is my life itself, lived on its own terms. An Earthship, or something like it, fits right in to that plan, in so many ways: the garbage-heap building materials, the DIY subversiveness, the self-sustaining infrastructure, the basic realness of it all… even just the organic shape of the space when you’re inside it–all these things jive with a worldview that’s less and less about baubles and more about bliss.
It’s hard to talk about integrating compassion and integrity into your life in these pervasive, fundamental ways without sounding, well, a bit yoga-retreat-y. Like all that patchouli finally got to the ole brain cells.
But it’s about more than woowoo and Namaste-ing each other all day long. I’m talking about survival, both in a Love-Your-Mother-bumpersticker sort of way and in a my-soul-will-become-a-sawdust-raisin-if-I-don’t-get-out-of-the-rat-race kind of way. Both are critical, and urgent.
Raj Patel’s wonderful little book, The Value of Nothing, summed up what I’m trying to get at very well, in a brief discussion of Buddhist economics:
“The real value of something is not in its ability to satisfy a craving, a desire, a vanity, but to meet the need for well-being.”
It all stems from that simple truth. All of it–how I want to structure the rest of my life, how I will value my time and my labor, what role stuff plays in my life. An Earthship, or something like it, isn’t a magic elixir or a patent cure-all. But it is a tool, a means, a process, a question and an answer, about what and who and how we value.