‘Re-examine all you have been told. Dismiss what insults your Soul.’ – Walt Whitman
The quote on a little square carton dangled at the end of my tea bag, one cloudy morning in Amsterdam. Three years after finishing that cup of tea, I still carry the piece of paper in my wallet, as the most valuable amongst valuables. The quote touched me. Not because its meaning was so radically new to me, – I once read that books that inspire us are not the ones that teach us something new, but those that give words to what we feel but cannot phrase. I loved the message because it resonated so strongly with my inner truth.
I long believed that rejecting things I saw around me was a sign of weakness. That I suffered from a need to identify myself by what I did not agree with. I judged the world by its many troubles and imperfections, focusing on what was not right. I heard myself being sharp, critical and a nay-sayer. Nay to the boredom of high school – which made me leave for Latin America at the age of 16; Nay to the Economics degree I had earned, – what use are these simplistic mathematical models for the real world?; Nay to my promising job in a respected financial institution. Nay, nay, nay.
In spite of all the no-ness, I never regarded myself as a negative person, nor was I perceived as such by others. I have always been full of dreams, hopes and ideas for the future; my own and the planet’s. I believe that humanity can do infinitely better than we do today! That in our hearts we all wish to take care of ourselves, society, and the ecosystems that surround us; that we just haven’t found the way yet. But every day I am confronted with a world that insults my Soul…
I used to read the papers on my way to work. By the time I arrived, I felt like crying. When I shared my thoughts with colleagues, they would shrug their shoulders and tell me ‘it’s just the way it is,’ which made my heart sink even deeper in disconnected hopelessness.
In weekends, if I happen to visit the city centre, I hear my Soul groan. I am absorbed in a crowd that rushes the streets in search for self-esteem in a new outfit. It makes my body tense, my mind anxious to know that shopping has become the nation’s number one pass-time. Staring at the suffocatingly overwhelming abundance of clothes in all shapes and sizes, knowing that they are designed for obsolescence, to be liked just long enough to make the purchase and just short enough to have it replaced by the next season, I cannot help but ask myself in every single store: How much of their stock will actually be sold? And if it’s not, what landfill will it end up on? And how much of what is sold will be binned after being worn once, twice or maybe a season? The same questions arise when I walk past the phone shop, or the warehouse full of nick-nacks, presents and home decorations. Where does it all go?
The mountains of stuff make my head spin and the thoughts of the ecological cost of it all makes me feel unwell. What a waste of nature, what a waste of human skill. What a waste of sacred materials, human creativity, and precious time on earth! I cannot not reject a lot of what I see. I find it ugly. It feels cold and sometimes scary, uncared for and disposable. It is violence to the Soul. Mine, Humanity’s, Nature’s.
Beautiful Economy is not just seeing the bright side, imagining what can be and creating a desired future. It is also facing the ugly. Realising how our culture of More, Further, Faster, Bigger brings about the destruction of Life. And feeling what this does to our Soul. Beautiful Economy is about saying NO to the ugly, consistently and confidently. To step out, refuse, reject; walk out and walk on. It is sensing what our bodies tell us, knowing when our hearts expand or contract. Being aware of our own facial expressions, muscular tensions and the rushing of our blood. It is noticing what sparks our anger, frustration, disappointment. And being honest about the fact that the world sometimes hurts, saddens, makes you feel hopelessly small, insignificant and alone.
Beautiful Economy is to face it all. See the ugly, feel it, come to grips with it, and choose the beautiful. Choose that what inspires you, that what warms your heart and brings a smile on your face. Choose what is healthy, for yourself and the planet. Choose what you rationally and intuitively know is right. Choose what feeds your Soul! Again and again and again…