Several months ago, I began a personal journey to 'downsize'. In my case, it was a weight issue, compounded by years of bad decision-making and a hurried, harried lifestyle that encouraged those choices through time crunches, big bills to pay, and ever-increasing turn-around speeds required to complete a day's work. Eventually, poor health and progressive deterioration made it -mandatory- that I start trimming my life. The alternative was greater progressive un-wellness.
Right around the same time, our culture here in the United States was beginning to feel an equivalent focus on our infrastructural "ill health". The economy struggled in earnest to "wake itself back up". Entire neighborhoods started that slide into deterioration that is so difficult to come back from, and yet, voices from all over were responding to these messages with "give me MORE"... more money, more government support, more tax breaks...
What if what we need isn't -more-, but LESS? What if the key to turning ourselves around and shaping a healthier culture out of our current spate of "sick country syndrome" isn't about spending more and buying more... but about cutting waste and downsizing on both a personal and societal level? What if, instead of looking for someone to bail us out, the solution lies in giving one -another- a hand UP? What if it isn't about our -government-, or "big business", but about the little choices each of us makes every single day about how we're going to interact, and whether or not we're going to contribute to our own health (or our own demise)?
Over the years, as I've watched people develop more awareness about resources, environment, personal health, stress, etc., I've also noticed a -lot- of pressure to consume at greater and greater levels. Every "cause" now has its own credit card, special clothing, fancy ribbons, special stores -- and in the process, all we've done is re-package our obsession with consumption into another wheezing, puffing, over-inflated mass.
Perhaps the downturn in our economy is serving a useful purpose. Perhaps, instead of patching it with tools to help us continue, as a culture, to over-consume and over-indulge, we can make use of this time to scale -back-... to change our focus to processes that will allow us, as individuals who make up a greater society, to begin to make choices that will -truly- heal our culture.
Perhaps it is the time to spend our out-of-work hours volunteering, and in the process, develop a continuum where we support the community, and the community supports us. Perhaps this is the time to plant our own food, instead of depending on boxes of commercially produced pseudo-food for sub-optimal nutrition. Perhaps this is the time to restore the family kitchen, let go of our "instant communication devices", and start talking to one another again, person-to-person, instead of machine-to-machine. Perhaps it is time to re-vision our businesses, and re-shape them to nurture the health and well being of the employees, and be more responsive to the customers and clients, rather than to a distant (and mercurial) Wall Street.
Perhaps, in the midst of all of this turmoil, there is a chance to heal our culture, and perhaps the only way to do that successfully is to let go of our rushing, over-consuming, harried, hurried, stressed-out, distraught, alienated, angry, disconnected road, and find a way to embrace something more "organic" -- something that encourages individuals to find (and make) their place in the world... that encourages relaxed recreation, imagination, and the art of helping one another. I think that we've forgotten these things, and that, until we take advantage of the opportunities presented to us by this societal turn of events, we will continue to exacerbate our own social illness and drive ourselves deeper into "sick society syndrome".