Contentment amidst Chaos
I know that I spend a large proportion of my time talking about, writing about, and sharing content related to many of the intersectional crises that we currently face as a society. I may not be an expert on each and every issue, but I care deeply about climate change, biodiversity loss, decolonization, access to affordable housing, and wealth inequality more generally (among many others). I believe that a kinder, more sustainable, and more equitable world is possible, and I want to do my part in shaping that future.
As many people probably know, I spend much of my free time reading and much of what I share has been informed by that reading. I feel that it helps others hear new (or different) ideas without having to commit themselves to reading as much as I do. I find a sense of purpose through the sharing of information, connecting the dots, and helping to educate others who might not have the time or energy to be clued into all aspects of every issue that I feel warrants more attention and/or discussion. People are busy, but based on the feedback I have received, I think that people appreciate my efforts for the most part.
However, based on a few recent instances, I get the feeling that there are people out there who know me — whether directly (i.e., friends, family or acquaintances) or indirectly (i.e., through social media) — who might assume that I am wholly consumed by these issues, or that it’s all I can think about. I would like to clarify that that’s certainly not the case, but I can understand why people might assume that about me. I think it’s most certainly a product of social media, where our perceptions of others are constructed based on what we see shared. I use my social media platforms primarily (nowadays) as a tool for sharing information about issues I care about, and it makes sense why others might think that these issues are ALL I care about. But I want people to know that they don’t consume me.
I don’t dwell on these issues 24/7, but they do help to frame my perspective and influence my actions. I feel that being well informed helps me to make decisions that are in line with my values and that makes me feel like I am being true to myself. It provides me with a sense of personal fulfillment. Climate change is an example of something that I care deeply about, but it’s not something that causes me immense anxiety in my day to day life. Climate change doesn’t fill me with a sense of dread (even if it probably should?). Instead, by keeping informed, I am then able to recognize the factors that are driving the climate crisis — such as corporate greed, over-consumption, burning fossil fuels etc. — and adjust my behaviour accordingly.
I channel any would-be-despair into meaningful action. I have the power — or better yet, the freedom — to make different decisions that would minimize my impact on the environment, such as flying less or eating less beef. When I get upset or angry about these issues, I talk about them, I write about them, and I post on social media about them. I take my negative feelings and turn them into something that hopefully has a positive impact on others. I do my best writing when I’m furious and I find it to be a powerful form of therapy.
Despite the chaos that surrounds us on a daily basis under late-stage capitalism, I know how and where to find my moments of peace and contentment. For the most part, in my personal life, I actually feel like I have a very peaceful, loving, and enjoyable existence. I’m surrounded by people who show me love and affection (as I do for them in return), I have a career that I find meaningful, and my income is more than enough to satisfy my needs. I feel an immense sense of gratitude for all of these things, because I know how lucky I am. The sense of security I feel is a privilege not afforded to many, and I use this privileged position to speak about issues that others may not have the time, energy, or emotional capacity for. It’s the least I can do, and I wish that more people in my position were willing to do the same.
Reading, running, writing, spending time with the people I care about, listening to the sound of birdsong, and being outdoors are some of the things that help to maintain my sense of inner peace. I may not always be happy, but I am fairly content with my life for the most part. I am determined to fight for a better world for all living things (both human and non-human), but managing my mental health is crucial to avoid burnout and despair. It’s possible to care deeply about these issues without them occupying 100% of my mental capacity, and I hope that those who read this will now have a better understanding of how I am able to manage.
I think that Albert Schweitzer perfectly articulated these feelings of mine in his 1969 book Reverence for Life. He wrote that “the small amount you are able to do is actually much if it only relieves the pain, suffering, and fear from any living being”, and that “however little joy we may see in this world, the sharing of it, together with the good we ourselves create, produces the only happiness which makes life tolerable”. My own efforts may be imperfect, but they do make life more tolerable for me. I just hope that they help to create some good for others.