No, not Gaiman, gaman. Although Neil's nice, too.
Ever heard of No Impact Man? I had forgotten about him until today when my friend Carolina linked to him on Facebook. Rather than explain who this guy is, I'll just cut and paste the subtitle for his blog:
Ye savvy? I think he's relaxed his lifestyle restrictions, but he's still pretty fringe, and therefore a great source of ideas for all things greener-than-thou.
Ok, so today Carolina, who is one of my crunchy, homebirthing, sustainable-living, super-consciously-living, idealistic Richmond peeps, linked to this post about the Japanese norm of not heating one's home during the winter.
Now, just this morning, I had been musing over my family's social abnormality while packing a lunch for Griff. Griff's friends at school who have bag lunches get things like Jell-O packs and Capri Sun juice pouches and Fruit by the Foot. I have this bizarre notion that lunches should be a) nutritious, b) not filled with artificial ingredients, and c) in reusable packaging. So those items pretty much triple-fail, you know? After much debate, we agreed as a family that on Fridays, I'll put a juice box (real juice, not Kool-Aid) in his lunch. And after he begged me all last week for a juice box (they're in the basement fridge, taunting him) and even told me how he would make something out of the package so it wouldn't be wasted, I'm feeling so frustrated that something as simple as wanting to reduce waste and eat good food makes me a freak, and makes him an outsider.
(Defensive aside: Griff is NOT deprived of the joy of fun goodies. For example, he got fresh spritz cookies in yesterday's lunch and cupcakes the whole week of Xander's birthday, and there's no lack of other treats here.)
Right, so this morning, I was thinking about all that while washing grapes and stuff. My head's a busy place. And then later I saw C's link and read the article, and while the idea of not heating my house chills me just to think of it (and today was in the 30s and rainy and gray, brrr), it's provocative. Even more compelling: the idea of a culture in which this is the norm (according to the guest-blogger). And then I stopped dead at this:
How exactly, perfectly, did he just say the thing that I feel in my heart every day? Well, actually, what I'm feeling is the opposite of this, which would be something like this: I feel alone. Part of what makes it hard to maintain my idealism is that virtually nobody does it. I'm making sacrifices that everybody else forgoes. I - and my child - have so many people around us who do things differently, and sometimes we envy them. We want their shiny foil Capri Sun packages filled with colorful sweet fluid (I cannot really call it juice). We want to fit in, and we are torn between doing what everybody else does, and doing what is consistent with our values.
That sounds somewhat martyrish, although it's not intended to be so. It's just hard, and lonely, when your carefully, thoughfully chosen experience is so very different from the experiences that most of the people you meet choose for themselves. It's hard in our culture, to choose to birth without drugs and/or outside of a hospital, to be a champion of reusable products (I've totally failed at the moment on cloth diapering), to want to relate to children in a non-authoritarian manner, to aim for a constant reduction in one's consumerist behaviors, et cetera. These are not popular choices. Many of the things I do or want to do mark me as an alien, somebody to whom others cannot relate, somebody on the fringe.
The thing is, there is also strength to be found in that solitude, the Japanese concept of "Gaman".
This reminds me of the practice of hardening steel in fire. And as for cultural values? We are piecing together our own culture of like-minded siblings and friends. We encourage each other when being on the fringe feels hard. We inspire each other to pursue our beliefs to their logical conclusions, even if it means some sacrifice. We sit around the kotatsu with them, and then we head out into the cold.