Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Life Lesson (+ An Informal Symposium)

Hello friends,

It's been a while, I know. I've got a two-part entry for today. The first is a blog post that isn't about tea (sorry, money-squeeze right now). The second part, loosely related to the post, is hopefully to solicit some feedback. I'll lay out the scenario after the post. As always, thank you for reading, and I welcome your thoughts. ^__^

A couple of weeks back, I took my daughter to Parmenter's Cider Mill in Northville, Mi. It's been one of my favourite places to frequent during autumn, and on the way back, we spotted this little guy. I showed it to Grace and she said "Daddy, what kind of silly bug is that?!?!?" I told her it was a Praying Mantis.

It took me back to my childhood, when I used to try to look after every butterfly, baby bird, and other creepy crawly that I found on the sidewalk without a family. Something in my child brain told me that these little creatures needed looking after. One such summer, I found a mantis and of course, it needed a home within the empty fishbowl in my basement. Eventually, it became a pet, and the number of crickets that became helpless victims was absolutely mind boggling. I figured that the mantis just had a huge appetite, but as it turned out, the mantis was getting ready to carry out it's role in the cycle of life. That fall, it laid an egg case and shortly after, passed away during the night. The egg case housed anywhere from 100-400 mantids. Come spring, the eggs hatched, and we grew our own fruit flies to feed them. Eventually, I took them outside, opened the lid of the case and watched them disperse.

That was my first real lesson on just how different the nature of life and death is through the many species that inhabit this planet. The male often dies immediately during or after mating, and the female won't have any maternal role in the life of her children. Further, only 10% of the offspring will survive. It's an amazing process to see start to finish.

It's kind of a mindfuck. Let's back it up and build a new perspective on the world we presently live in. Say you only had a 10% chance of survival, and you made it. You spend your entire life looking for a partner (so far it's not too strange), and when you finally find a mate, you learn nothing about her. You don't talk much, but instead, just do the deed (still not terribly uncommon in the real world), copulate, and as your final duty for your children, you become a high-energy food source to ensure your kids get off to a good start. You never get a chance to meet your kids, and after you kick the bucket, your partner drops the kids off in an egg case and hightails it just in time to enjoy the last little bit of her own life. Eventually, your cannibalistic saplings race head to head in an attempt to survive long enough to do it all over again. Aside from the obvious part where you might get your dome chomped, the basics of life are all covered, and in a roundabout way, still can be related to the cycle of life and partnership as some people experience it, right down to the part where some parents never play a significant role in their children's lives.

So then, what makes it different? What puts us on a different level? It puzzles me; we have a nature to learn and grow, adapt to change, and be social. We build upon our previous generation by sharing our experiences and knowledge, and even though the primal behaviours don't change, we get to experience the cycle of living on a very different level than many of the other creatures we share our world with. We'd be fools to forget that. Take every single day, every experience with this in mind. Share your thoughts, even if you think they're stupid. You'll learn, you'll grow, you'll connect.

Sometimes I forget the inquisitive nature of children is just as important to their development and growth as keeping the freezer stocked with food and the fridge loaded with juice. Sometimes I forget to respond appropriately when Grace says "Look Dad, that dog is brown!" Some dogs are brown; all adults know that, but she's a child. When I find myself taking that information in, my response should be something to the effect of "Hell yeah! That is a brown dog! Let's talk about it!" As we get older, we all take on the role of educating and encouraging those around us.

and now, for the part where I will ask for some feedback

We live in a time where most, if not all of the people who read this blog have or know of someone who has felt the crunch of economic instability. It is, in and of itself, the primary reason I haven't been able to post on many of the teas I have been dying to taste. Money has been tighter, and I've already got enough to last me the next fifteen years. So, in lieu of my present life situation, the buying of and blogging about tea has taken a back seat. In the meantime, I've spent more time learning how to cook meals at home, doing more with less, and living an overall healthier existence.

Last night, I got into a rather heated debate with someone on energy efficiency and health care vs. education on healthier lifestyles. The point that we debated on the most was whether it is right for people to be irresponsible with their freedoms just because they have the bankroll. We discussed the fact that some restaurants are removing salt from their meals, teachers are educating children in schools about how to live healthier lifestyles, right down to reducing the impact on the environment by using CFL bulbs over incandescent bulbs and walking/biking instead of driving everywhere. The person I spoke with stood firmly on the idea that in a capitalistic society, if a person has the money to pay for it, they should be able to use as much energy as they want, eat whatever they choose, and let health insurance take care of the rest. That's what freedom is all about, right?

I totally agree that the option to have a choice is important, but I also believe that the misuse of a privilege, or wasteful use of resources, simply because you have the capital to afford it isn't an ethical way to live, and ultimately won't bode well as the nations move further into the global economy. I was informed that my thinking was naive and I was merely indoctrinated into believing what "the government" wanted me to believe. I'm hearing and reading so many contrasting points of view in the media that it's making my head spin.

So my question to you all is this:

If you live in a country where healthcare isn't afforded to you, or you pay for it out of pocket, what are your thoughts on the push for government reform and educating people to live healthier lifestyles? If you live in a country that has government programs around energy conservation and healthcare, what are some of your personal experiences with these kinds of programs?

Also, for anyone who has taken steps of their own to promote a lower-impact lifestyle, how do you go about educating friends and family members, and what kinds of push back do you get, if any at all?

I know it's long-winded, but these topics keep coming up in daily conversation, and most of us are already tech-savvy, involved in the global market, and definitely interested in the history and culture of the world around us. I don't want to repeat the same steps over and over just because that's what my country was founded upon. I want to be part of a positive change for my family and those around me, well-aware that without change, we stand to fall behind. I'm open to hearing both sides of this, so please educate me :-)


Anonymous said...

push.....back. None. I work for a public school and am fortunate to have health care for me, my husband, my daughter and now my newest in the womb. I have recently been also "afforded" with a 3% decrease in wages (all public school employee, thanks to an Obama enacted plan) this increase will help pay for the newest retires health care. A social security if you will, that will NOT be there when I retire in say.....25 years. I think you have always modeled responsibility with child. You only can do that. You can't control much else. I don't like that while I continue to get educated (now master's student), I also continue to pay for people to stay uneducated, and continue their cyclical lifestyle while my dime pays for their lifestyle? I vote. I read about my candidates. And I still get disgruntled. What I have found in my family, during economic "famine" is I hunger less for love, peace and comfort in the little moments. That outside the walls of our tiny home is where the unrest will continue to be. People do have a right to do what they may w/ their money. However, why do I not have the same right to say, "no I'll keep my 3% Mr. Change Man, I already have investments for my retirement..." Why should I pay for someone else's poor planning. Why? Because that's how it always has been. And heaven for bid, cause things can change in a heartbeat...if my family went hungry and the good Lord decides to humble me....that what I now see as a "hand out" might in hindsight be the very blessing I need if the tables were to turn.

Jamus said...

Hello Anonymous reader ^__^

I think you up some seriously strong points here, and being able to afford health care for myself and my family is huge. It's unfortunate that you lost 3% of your wages, and as someone who is also interested in becoming an educator, this concerns me. If the message is to better educate ourselves on being more responsible citizens, how better to land that message with those who inspire minds than by taking money out of their pockets? *sarcasm*

Granted, I think we all can learn to be more responsible citizens, but as you are already aware, the uneducated stay that way and our tax dollar pays to maintain that lifestyle. Unfortunately, it feels like we're all together riding on a plane, and no matter how much we have a grasp of things, we have a relatively small voice overall. We land or crash together.

I've learned through necessity to live a happier lifestyle on less. My wages have been down this year as well, and I don't see them turning around anytime soon, even though my hourly pay is the highest I've ever seen it. I've taken solace in books, friends, and the community pool. I've found it with walks to the park, and spending two hours of my day running alongside nature. Even with late nights digesting new albums and drinking tea. These moments bring me far greater joy than the outings I used to spend a sizable portion of my paychecks on. A lot of it, for me, goes back to the question of whether or not it's right to do something just because we can. You're right; people have money, people have a right to spend it. I just think it's that mentality that ultimately causes many of the financial and systematic breakdowns in our country. No matter how many reforms and tax-funded programs we put into place, nothing will change long-term until we change the behaviour. As the past eight years of working has shown me, I have, without thinking, adjusted perfectly to my level of income. Now, with less, I've found a way to make it work. We're resilient creatures after all.

It's definitely frustrating to feel that nagging of "this person gets a push and they don't even work for it...when's it gonna be my turn to get a little help too?" This is especially true when I'm pinching week to week to try to finish school and take care of my family. Yet I see people every day without jobs, with big lifestyles, living off my money. I'm really curious to see how the next four years are going to play out.

best of wishes to you and your family, and good luck with the littlest one! Hope to hear from you again!