Much of life is spent attempting to avoid pain. I know this because I procrastinate actions that I know will be uncomfortable, like going to the gym, or to a city council meeting, or calling my congressman, in favor of Coconut Bliss. When I do make the call it’s not only not-so-bad, but I’m so elated by the experience that I get upgraded to bragging rights. I feel like I make life’s cruel pendulum swing when I take action. Zero to hero in one phone call. Can I get a fist bump?
Achieving any goal requires leaning into discomfort. But discomfort doesn’t mean danger. It just means I am leaning outside of my comfort zone. And that, my fellow new-age bumper-sticker enthusiast, is where life begins.
My best memories are those of near disaster when a trip doesn’t go as planned; when I’m forced to pay attention and take new action to restore my situation.
In 2012 I was honored with an invite to Antarctica to participate in a climate expedition aboard the National Geographic Explorer with world leaders, journalists, CEO’s, scientists, and skeptics. Besides representing music and my age group, my role was to provide entertainment on the lengthy journey from South America to the neutral southern continent. I played two of my own music sets, hosted 2 open-mic nights, a mud-boot fashion show, and provided the occasional early AM wake-up song over the ship’s PA system. All that I was fine with. I was in my element cruising the high seas to icy harbors that resembled mystical movie sets. What I was not prepared for was an incident that occurred while anchored at Palmer Station.
I had just observed a large chunk of glacier crumble in a corner of the glassy harbor. The surface water rippled outward in the pattern of a Wi-Fi signal.
Oblivious to the weather and my loose articles, a gust of wind swirled around me, lifting a snack wrapper out of my pocket and tossing it into the air like a feather. I was easily 7 stories above the water surface and my trash had just gone overboard. I gasped. It was out of my reach. I watched in silence and panic as a shiny green-foiled paper fluttered and glided away like a distorted paper airplane. It made an ugly water landing on the settling mirror, frozen like a booger on a pristine painting. I had just littered in Antarctica!
Fortunately, my trash was so visible that it was quickly spotted and retrieved by an incoming zodiac raft returning from an expedition. I was saved. But still, I had to confess my error to the crew and our fearless commander, Vice President Al Gore! It was not easy, nor swift. But I love my job, and I love the environment, and I stand to protect both. So I leaned into the discomfort and shared my apology in hopes of inspiring others to secure all loose articles – to pack out what you pack in – to leave the world better than you found it.
I learned from that experience exactly the kind of impact humans have on the planet. We make trash. And keeping it clean thus conserving for future generations is going to take action.
Picking up any trash, literal or figurative, requires kneeling, which is the international gesture for being humble. And every single one of us could use a daily dose of humility.
I try to look on the bright side. I think Mother Nature is behind the scenes serving us tough love. Long ago we stopped observing Her as sacred and started buying and selling natural resources. In doing so, greed became the name of our game. So greed is what we’re getting. Are we surprised to see a trash-talker in the highest office?
Transforming our system or breaking our beliefs won’t be easy, but we’ll thank ourselves for it. In 80 years will citizens of the future (our children) thank us, or curse us?
Now is the time to act. Now is the time to don an orange safety vest and start picking up trash. Now is the time to start bailing out the sinking ship. The water is rising.
Now is the time to call your city council, your board of supervisors, your farm bureau, your congressperson, your senator, the army corp of engineers, the white house, and be a voice for the preservation of your sacred environment and the systems that are there to protect it and us. There are 1000’s of ways to kneel and kiss the ground. Each one starts with a sigh. Call it a deep breath. Shed the tears. Lean into the discomfort. Start living.
Bragging rights await you.