On Sandstorms and Sustainable Living

The Interruption

A strong wind woke me up at 3 in the morning. It felt like a ferocious storm is ensuing. I chose to ignore it and tried to go back to sleep. After all, my head is still reveling in an unwanted headache that’s close to using up its time. I have decided not to take a pill for it and instead practice the “observing mind” idea. I read about it sometime back. When you’re in pain, you observe your body going through it, how it reacts, it feels and looks, and recognize that the pain is not you. It’s apart from you, and most likely will just pass you by. Your body may be experiencing it but your “being” isn’t affected by it. It’s highly philosophical and I am not the best person to articulate it so let’s just go back to the “storm” story I talked about earlier.

I was starting to imagine movie scenes and pictures of:

  •  a house caught by a tornado, or swept out to the sea, with the site of pirates looming in far ahead, or
  •  a town invaded by zombies with me being the only survivor left 

are becoming vivid as I lie in bed awake. Needless to say, the thought of looking outside finally won me over.

“Calm down, you’ve been watching too much Netflix”.

I got out of bed, stood up, walked towards the balcony door, and peeked behind my curtain. My fresh laundry is now waiving like white flags screaming surrender. As if it wasn’t enough, I slid the door open and yes, a dusty, forceful wind slapped me in the face. I’m awake, I’m alive and a sandstorm is haunting my town.

About 8:30 in the morning the air quality index (AQI) was high. Reducing physical exertion particularly outdoors especially if a person is experiencing symptoms like cough or sore throat, was the advice I got from weather.com. Looking outside I still see people going for a jog or a stroll. No judgment here, perhaps they are just not aware. AQI measures the level of air pollution. You get updates from websites monitoring air quality in your location on any given day along with advice on how to protect yourself and your health.

The Irony

Yesterday, I visited the sustainability pavilion featured at the EXPO here in town. A walk through the place was evocative of the things I was taught at school when I was a kid and how I felt at that time. Again, it brought awareness to how we are contributing to the destruction of the ecosystem and how we can participate in re-building it if we want to survive.  

I think the least that we can do is to consume less and produce more to make life sustainable. It’s not rocket science, and the beauty is we can start with small things. Some ideas of my own:

  • buy fewer clothes, choose durable ones
  • use recyclable bags
  • use public transportation if possible, or travel less
  • consume less meat, eat more vegetables
  • order or cook the right amount of food to avoid wastes
  • save animals, plant something (tree or vegetable)
  • change gadgets only if it’s broken
  • dispose of waste properly

The EXPO made the experience more meaningful by confronting people with well-thought-of questions and then posting a scoreboard to see which of the given options are winning. On the day I visited this was the trend for a few of those:

  • 68% choose to save the Earth rather than escape to Mars
  • 51% wants clean air to breathe more than clean water to drink
  • 69% are willing to get paid badly for doing something they cared about rather than getting highly paid for doing something they disagree with
  • 60% choose to live 100 years into the future than to have lived 100 years into the past
  • 51% opt to be surrounded by annoying people for the rest of their life instead of being lonely for the rest of it
  • 71% would rather be not famous but their family and friends are proud of them instead of the other way around

And get this. 52% choose to find 10 million dollars in a suitcase rather than find true love. Is finding true love becoming overrated? I wonder.

As the pavilion tour rightly puts it, difficult decisions lie ahead.

What choices are we going to make?

Every day we will be confronted with different things. But at the moment, I can start right here. I choose to eat my vegetables, stay indoors, write this article, and hope you’d ponder upon these things and do something about it.

Until then.

The End

Today marks the close of another project that I have started five months back. Would I call it a victory? Well, it didn’t pan out the way I envisioned but I should say it was a success. Along the way, I have learned a lot, expressed a lot, developed some technical know-how in areas otherwise I would have shrugged off and kept wondering how it worked. Once I got the hang of it, things just felt like clockwork.

What I learned from this experience.

Pursue the things you’re interested in, regardless of the outcome.

Of course, it’s good to have a goal in mind. That works for most people. But for me, I’ve never been so much into goals. Maybe that’s the reason why I don’t get to the same levels as the people I admire and adore. But I’m fine with that. I got myself into a place where I am more confident and content with who I’ve become, and how I’ve made an impact on someone else’s life.  

I believe in what we call “the process”. I trust it, and I focus on the “now” rather than on some not-so-distant tomorrow which may or may not come. 

What’s important to you right now may not be the same as what others care about at this stage in their life.

Every person we meet even those close to us has his or her own priority. Sometimes they can’t be bothered by the things we’re occupied with or worried about, and that’s okay. We don’t have the same starting point, our circumstances are different, and every person has the freedom to carve his own path rather than follow the herd. 

Sometimes you can take people with you only so far, and then you part ways, you pursue different things. Each of us is in pursuit of our own happiness and we should give that freedom to one another, even more, when we endeavor to create a sense of meaning into our very existence. I think beyond happiness, “meaning” is the utmost desire of our souls.

You may never arrive but what matters is you regard every road as precious.

Wherever we are at this point is necessary not so much to give us comfort but rather to build our character and know our worth, our purpose. The pages of a book are individual strings the when tied together reveal the entirety of a story. I know that sometimes we want to tear a page or two. We don’t like it. It’s burdensome, it’s full of hurts, fears, sadness, and feelings of defeat. When I’m faced with this, I try to imagine myself like I’m a piece of land that needs to crack open. A land that needs to be tilled and cultivated so seeds can grow and new life can spring up. It’s the same thing when our hearts break. The cracks allow God’s grace to flow through. Keeping this in mind allows me to welcome things as they come, whether it be failure or success, an end or a beginning, a hopeful morning or a gloomy afternoon. These things all have a purpose, and it can only unfold once I begin to recognize that. Walking through life with an open hand dissolves all tension in the body. Release your clutch, and you will know what I mean.

Trying is better than not having done anything.

Execution is better than planning.

Living something out is better than preaching about it.

Last thing I wanna say. 

Let go if you need to. What’s meant for you will surely find its way back. 

Let me leave you with this quote from Lewis Carroll:

“IN THE END… We only regret the chances we didn’t take, the relationships we were afraid to have, and the decisions we waited too long to make.”

Don’t be scared.

Living, is a verb.