OK, I have to admit that the idea for this post started out as something of a joke in my mind this morning, after first opening one eye, then the other eye, then trying to open both simultaneously. Then wondering how much coffee it would take to get me conscious to work on my various projects, including the very cool re-branding project I’m doing with Project 6 in Berkeley right now. (BTW, present count is two cups, but a third at di Bartolo’s down on Grand here in Oaklyn might be in the offing again today.)
But once I did get that first cuppa Joe in my system, and my proverbial consciousness was raised, I started thinking about this whole notion a bit more. One note, to stay on theme: this will likely be a stream of consciousness kind of post, meaning I have a starting point, but don’t know where this will end. But hopefully you’ll humour me and come along for the ride, and we’ll arrive at the point together.
Now, I know some of this post has its genesis in eating. Not as random as one might think. I started a diet about a month ago, and I’m using a very cool free app on my iPod Touch call Lose It to help. Basically, it helps you track everything you eat, and how many calories you take in, and how many you burn through exercise. Basically, it raised my consciousness about how much I eat, how much I should eat to hit my target weight, and how much I need to exercise to get there. (BTW, it seems to be working. I’m about half-way there.)
The second part of the eating equation is that I’m about half-way through Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food. This has definitely raised my consciousness about what I eat, and how our national food system has evolved from locally raised whole foods to national, industrially raised and highly processed (and less healthy) foods, with the rapid rise of so called “Western diseases” (diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, etc.) following this progression. Nutritionism, as this trend is known, has trumped eating fresh, locally grown foods without worrying too much about what the nutritional content is. It seems there’s more of a movement back toward the local aspect with the rise of weekly (or more frequent) farmer’s markets, including the one in my ‘hood every Saturday, which I’m finally starting to frequent more.
But while I may not have known where this post was headed when I started, I do know I don’t want to make it totally about food – and since I just ate breakfast, I’m not hungry anymore and not thinking about food so much, so let’s move on.
What I’d like to see from more people – myself included – is a much broader Consciousness Project. I think this has more to do with the walk I took with the dog a couple nights ago up into neighboring Piedmont. It was pretty still and pretty quiet, when you notice small sounds more. And just as important, when other senses aren’t over-ridden by speaking or hearing, and you notice the smell of the night-blooming jasmine and angel’s trumpet. And you just become more aware – more conscious – of your surroundings.
This notion applies every day in most every situation. My dog is hyper-aware of his surroundings. Granted, this probably has more to do with the likelihood that he has wolf in his more recent ancestry, and that he’s sadly rather scared of a number of pervasive things in our surroundings (in particular, most people, especially ones riding motorcycles or skateboards; and kids whose parents let them off-leash), which in a way is funny (not funny haha) since he tips the scales at 100 pounds and has larger than average teeth and bark. But that’s for another post.
But how many of us are really aware of our surroundings, our environment, at any given time? Even when we should be, like when we get behind the wheel of our car? When you walk down the street, how many of the people you pass do you notice? How many of the storefronts? The trees? Birds? Are you on the phone, texting or just plain walking with your head down, lost in your own thoughts? I go there a lot, I must admit. Do you wonder if your day-to-day activities affect those surroundings – and the people, animals and other things that inhabit them (as well as those surroundings outside your neighborhood)?
When you drive, are you paying attention to all the other cars around you (which you should, because most of those drivers probably aren’t)? Are you on the phone or playing with the radio or GPS? Do you consider your tailpipe emissions when you get in your car and start it up? Can you make this trip on foot or on bike? Did you bring a re-usable cloth bag, or will you be coming home with the plastic bags from the merchant? Did you bring your own travel mug to the coffee shop so you don’t have to use one of their cups, sleeves and plastic lids?
When you throw something in the garbage, do you give a second thought about where it ends up? Could you have taken a couple extra seconds and put it in recycling or the composting bin, if you have one?
When you turn a light on, leave the room and leave the light on (and it’s not a CFL), do you consider not just the few cents extra on your electric bill, but the extra CO2 emissions from the power plant that provides the juice for the bulb which you just added to the atmosphere?
Little things. Little things. Lots of little things. But when you multiply that by the six billion people (and growing) currently inhabiting our little Spaceship Earth, holy crap does that add up in a hurry!
Now take a deep breath, if the air quality allows it.
If we all started to consider our actions just a bit more on a daily basis, there are lots of little things every one of us can do – that don’t even cost any money and might even save you some – that can have a positive impact on those surroundings. So change your lightbulbs to CFLs (here in the Bay area, they’re really cheap with PG&E subsidies). Walk to the cafe and bring a travel mug. Bring your own bags to the grocery or even the department store. Hang your laundry to dry. Ride a bike to work one day a week, or take public transit. Say ‘hi’ to people you see in your neighborhood on a regular basis, even if you don’t know their names. After all, we’re all in this together. And if we treat each other, and our surroundings, a little bit better, we’ll all be healthier for it.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is The Consciousness Project. Please, join me. It’ll be fun.
(See, we did arrive at the point, even if it took a few extra turns to get there.)
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