How can we know the way if we don’t know where we are going? As I write on this first back-to-business day of 2018 I’m thinking about how what we do, our work, affects our lives.
Everyone has power over their own destiny, but no one can control reality. The most powerful work to corral us to a purpose, usually “growing the economy” and increasing our production for profit. We share in that success, to a point. We admire achievement.
We sense. We hear the anxious and the confident. We see economic distress and economic success. What is the world now truly like, and what will happen this year? We consume information through our many digital windows. Surely someone will show us the way, and yet there is a powerful force somewhere in each of us that knows the way to having a regular place at the table of happiness.
It's being suggested that if our glass is half full, we need only use a smaller one to be happy. As the economy grows by increasing productivity, using a smaller vessel each year leads to the glass becoming the size of a thimble. That’s not going to work.
For 2018 I predict that those who grow gardens, ground cover, and flowers will have fresh produce, covered soil, and flowers. Those who raise chickens, will likely have eggs. If we install more solar panels, we will harvest more energy from the sun. If we replace old wood stoves with cleaner burning stoves, clean our chimneys, and burn the fire hot, then we will have fewer particulates in the air we breathe. What work we do this year will determine our well-being in 2019, to a point. It’s cause and effect. Our future is not magic, it’s the application of the solid theory, the conclusion from human analysis using scientific method, formal and informal, that what we do each day sets our course for our future.
We experience a cyclone of information from the time we wake and start looking at our screens to the time we sleep. There we dream. One’s mind tries to make sense of it all by recombining the experiences and ideas of one’s life. Then we wake up to our screens and our conscious lives.
Watchful economic predictions conflict. Mainstream business news outlets are reporting that 2017 was more solid than expected. Their projection for 2018 is for 2-3% growth of the US economy. Digital currencies, notably Bitcoin are figuring into their estimations. Compared to what I see on the streets and in other reporting, their analyses and predictions sound glib. I like to hear good economic news, and I’m looking for verification.
During the holidays as I stood with a visiting friend of the family outside a restaurant after dinner, a healthy looking young man pushed his shopping cart along the sidewalk past us. He tried not to make eye contact; he was looking for valuable cans and bottles that others tossed away. My companion asked me if it’s okay if she gives him some money. I’d been reading about what to do for the homeless in a local paper. I follow the hypothesis that it is better to give to organizations than to individuals, but she can do what she likes. She called him over and gave him some cash. He looked scared and a bit cold. He needed a place to sleep for the night, and he was nowhere near a homeless shelter. Maybe there is no room for a healthy young man. What happened to him? Where are his parents? I wanted to find out, but we were on our way home.
I wonder if that young man also experiences the world through a smart phone. It’s possible with the pay-as-you-go cell phone services available and the free or nearly free phones offered with the service.
There are an increasing number of people on the streets and in the woods, living on the fringes, marginally wild, in need of being corralled into a space safer for everyone. We’re all corralled, domesticated, in large part.
In my little residential space, I look in what’s left of my garden, my economic safety net in need of development. In the darkest part of the year the tomato vines not only have green and slowly ripening fruit, but they are also flowering. Everyone with a garden around here in my real and virtual world tell me that this is weird. Growing tomatoes outside in winter is nice, but it’s strange. A warming planet apparently means we can glean more tomatoes this year.
It’s still cold. Some homeless are better and more careful than others in generating their own heat. There are several well documented incidents in California in 2017 of catastrophic failure to contain a campfire, such as what caused the Ponderosa Fire in August. Last week the young man accused pleaded no contest to causing the fire as he let his campfire smolder during his month-long stay in the woods. In this relatively-so-far dry year, the clear and present danger of a campfire getting out of control is reason enough to moderate the homeless camps in and around Paradise and Magalia.
In short follow various news sources. Some produce reports to inspire confidence, and others produce reports for their own reasons. Like a puzzle we can find the accurate pieces of information and put together a true picture. Scroll right, left, up and down on your screens, and look around often. Direct your life, and if you’re a leader, one of the powerful, remember that the work that you do, or fail to do in 2018 matters to our well-being in 2019.
Life with many windows was published in the Paradise Post on January 3, 2018.
Robin Huffman lived in Paradise, California from 1989 until she evacuated from the Camp Fire on Nov. 8, 2018.