Okay, not entirely. Made you look! But yes, I have contributed to the problem. I live in a country that is one of the largest pieces of the problem. There are paper plates in my pantry at the moment. I shop in grocery stores overflowing with plastic and wasteful packaging. In fact, our apartment had a moth infestation because of said packaging. I’ve casually sipped out of thousands of plastic cups in my lifetime. To indirectly quote Muir, thinking about the environmental impact of my consumption makes me cringe, seeing how each flick of the wrist as I threw something away, each swing of a trash bag in my alley, is hitched to every other system in the universe. Once you begin seeing the impacts, you can’t look away. I hope more people will become haunted in this way.
On my Christmas wish list, I wrote, “An angel visitation to Donald Trump that results in his subsequent conversion to Islam.” I’d like to add to that list. For all of the climate change deniers, I’d like Santa to bring a piece of coal. No ordinary piece of coal! It will adhere to their body (it has skin recognition like a snitch). This coal will make them chronically sweaty. I mean unpleasantly hot. That is, of course, if they’re in a geographical area that is slowly warming. If they take a trip to Europe, for example, their little coal buddy will make them frustratingly chilly. Oh, and I want it to be a mess. I want the coal to get all over them, staining everything in sight so they can never call it clean again. Santa, can you hear me?
It’s astounding to me that we’ve become so numb to a FIXABLE problem. I’m not saying that all other work is irrelevant. I’m not. But if our planet’s sickness is not healed, it will inevitably die. So what if we cured cancer? My acting career sure won’t matter. All of those degrees we earned? Meaningless. I know it’s harsh. And this type of thinking runs the risk of deflection just like the quacks that are ignoring science. But that’s why I started this blog by claiming some accountability. I am equally to blame for the wounds we’ve made in our ozone. I’m not pointing fingers. I’m thinking hard about what it means to be a human being.
2016 has been a really hard year for our kind. Maybe not harder—just more visible. Less easy to ignore. And we’re fantastic at ignoring. A term that comes to mind is “watchmen with our eyes closed.” There are so few things that are different about humans from other animals. One is advanced cognition. Another is our ability to speak and discern what we perceive. Humans marveled at birds’ flight for a time, so they built planes and drones to see like a bird, and then shared that perspective through mass production! We have an obligation to use our broader perspective as spokespeople for the billions of other inhabitants to our home. And yet, we’re too selfish. We care about the personal, not the idealistic.
Thinking about the domestication of animals is a helpful lens to link that gap. I used to look away when we watched Planet Earth in school and there was a scene with animals on the hunt. I’d feel so bad for the prey. My siblings have ridden horses for years, and I’ve grown accustomed to hearing a personified recounting of a lesson or show. “She was naughty” or “She’s such a bitch” are commonplace. Certain animals are vilified beyond compare—it’s extremely difficult for pit bulls to be adopted from shelters. None of these examples are meant to sound like an accusation. They are soft points to perspectives that are incredibly common. On a large scale, we have contact with animals in ways that prove convenient or beneficial for us. We tame them so they become “more useful.” What if the narrative we told wasn’t centered entirely on our advancement as a species? What if we understood that the passage of time is actually a circle, not a double helix? We have put many animals into boxes that we understand. Wolves are scary. But labradors play fetch and cuddle! Probably, centuries ago, a wolf ate someone’s child. Just a shot in the dark guess. So they passed that warning along through the generations until the reason was forgotten, but the fear remained. I can see how this thinking has fed into human inequality as well. I won’t point so hard here. You can think about it yourself. Maybe a good starting place is a health concern about sex in ancient times spiraling into rampant fear today? One of many options.
Somehow, we have gotten to a place where people can say, “I’m not an outdoorsy person.” As if the matter in your bones is different from a mountain range. As if you are so completely “other” from the dirt that hopping from one fluorescently lit cube to another can satisfy your sense of place. I’m calling bullshit. We are on the periphery. To the forest, people are a strange, recurring annoyance that burn and cut and give little in return. I don’t know whether it’s more damaging to get out there with a saw in your hands or complicity support industries who do it for you for an entire lifetime. It’s so twisted that the latter is even an option!
In nature, there are no plot lines. Predators are also prey. I recently saw an incredible film, Les Saisons, at Music Box that captured this messiness. One of the final lines said something like, “Despite attacks from all sides, nature isn’t giving up. It’s resisting.”
Now that’s making it personal. For a country in resistance. For a country bonding closer against the tyranny of an orange. Stop covering your eyes and ears and forgetting about your neighbor’s children. Please.
I'm at an age where people are coupling up. It seems like every time I open Facebook, someone has posted engagement photos. And for crying out loud, people, they're not senior photos! I mean, you do you, but you don't need so many props! If you have a dog, yes, please include your dog. I love all of your dogs. It's even ok if you want to dress them up. Dog onesies are hilarious, and levity is important. Ha! The ones where it’s a dog dressed as another animal! Like SOMEHOW a dog crawled inside of a giraffe and they’re both totally fine with it?! I digress.
With these constant displays of public dedication and love, I've started to want to make one of my own. So here goes.
To Paola and Julianna,
My soulmates. My people. I am so incredibly grateful for our friendships. Deciding to live with your closest comrades is fraught with disaster, but I wouldn't trade this past year and a half of my life for all the world. Thank you for the weirdest, loudest living situation that I can imagine. We're all going through some major life shifts. We may become distant sometimes, maybe, but I'm confident that Paola will keep us in line and actively listen while she tells either of us to get our shit together. Partners have come in and out of our home, and we've laughed & cried with them and after they left. Thank you for holding my heart when it has throbbed. I have witnessed your days and nights and sicknesses and joys. From Paola's morning face to Julianna's bouncy tiptoe. I love you. You're my Chicago family. I will absorb your poems, dreams, and stories as long as you’ll have me listen. For anyone else who’s reading this, here’s an encounter that describes our dynamic:
I sent a txt reading, “Send halp. I’m a lazy hungry bum who doesn’t want to get out of bed,” so you stuck the face of a rubber chicken into my doorway, honked it repetitively and then threw a plantain at my face. Cohabitation at its finest.