I recently watched a video called “Within Reach” and it got me thinking more about the more important questions in life.
The movie being primarily about sustainability covers one man’s journey 12,000 miles across the United States spanning two years. The questions raised in the video focus on how we can live a more connected life to the earth, our fellow man, and ultimately ourselves.
The motives and questions raised in the movie reminded me of my own ponderings over the years. I’ve studied sustainability in school and know what it means in a textbook sense. However, when you really break it down to a more individual, personal level I believe that it is another avenue that those of us with that itch, that consistent nagging in our souls to live a more fulfilled, more connected, and happier life go down. I know because I too have gone down that path.
For the most part, my journey began like many, in my college years. I was one of those people that school came to pretty easily. I breezed through college and about half way through my senior year I picked up a part time sales job at a local Best Buy and really got my first taste of what it was to be in this socio-economic system that we currently are living in. A year and half later after feeling the full brunt of the stress of working at a retail store I jumped ship for a factory job that wasn’t much better. I started to see that maybe this “freedom” that we were supposed to have was just a myth. Yeah, sure, we can get up each day and make a variety of choices that give us the illusion of freedom. But do we really have freedom? I’ve had many discussions with friends on this topic and ‘the dream’ that we are fed as Americans.
From an early age, it seems we are fed this image of what we will have when we’ve “made it in life" - essentially what we need to be happy. It can vary slightly, but being married, a bunch of kids, a dog, a high paying (most likely high-stress) job, big house in suburbia, nice new car, and anything else that you can buy to make you happy would probably be on most peoples lists. I don’t think that wanting those things is necessarily a bad thing. I too someday hope to have a wife, kids, a secure home, and everything I need to live comfortably. However, it is the price that we have to pay for this life and the fact that even with it, more and more people aren’t able to find happiness and are popping a variety of the latest pharmaceuticals or designer drugs to cope and subdue the symptoms of their inner-self calling for change.
After 8 months at the factory I was growing ever more and more unsettled. 40+ hours a week and more physical and emotional stress than I cared to deal with in exchange for a little money just didn’t seem like a fair trade. And for that matter, no amount of money can really weigh the scales enough to make that a fair trade. Something inside me was pulling me to something more. I had been toying with the idea of quitting and moving out west to Colorado to find a different way of life. I did just that. I spent 3 weeks in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming checking out a variety of National Parks. Although a great experience and refreshing to my soul to be in nature, playing, photographing, and living, I still hadn’t found “the more” that I was looking for. So I went home and started reading and expanding my knowledge base of life. I found a variety of different material on alternative living. It seemed that the alternative to this McDonalds-Wal-Mart convenience lifestyle was the sustainable approach. Not a new idea, men have been playing with the notion of leaving society for years and likely much longer. Films like Jeremiah Johnson outlined this ‘back to the earth’ mentality. Men like Eustace Conway, Mick Dodge, and Christopher McCandless have all had books, movies, and reality shows made about them and their daring quests to be and live something more.
I started to believe that leaving society and building a cabin deep in the woods might not be bad idea. However, I took notice that not all those people that jumped into the woods had found happiness. They usually brought with them the heaviest baggage of all-their past and themselves.
After a few months of researching and saving up money at home, I decided it was time to take another leap. I bought a one-way ticket to Kona, Hawaii hoping that maybe there, I could find something different. People living off the land, people living a more connected, more spiritual life. I will say I found a lot of really interesting and enlightened people on my journey through Hawaii. But I still found a lot of the same too. Walmarts and Costcos, grocery stores with imported bananas and oranges, all while they were growing abundantly on island. People working 40+ hours a week serving the tourism industry to make a living. Maybe I’m just spoiled but I’ve always felt like life was meant to be lived, not worked away. I thought, there’s got to be more, right? Like many I’ve been on the never ending search for more. For connectedness, for a different society, for unconditional Love and acceptance. The search is not wrong or without reason, but I think we all forget, or conveniently choose to forget the one truth that we all deep down know to be true. This being that we have everything inside of us that we ever could need. At the heart of every desire is the desire to feel something good or better than what we are currently feeling. So If we are really all just chasing a feeling, as I believe is the case, then maybe we should spend a little more time imagining, feeling, and meditating on the way we want our lives to be.
I whole-heartedly believe that life is all about belief. What we believe we will perceive. So maybe these journeys of finding sustainability in a eco village, moving to the woods, or searching the globe for a different way of living aren’t really what we're looking for. Maybe it's not about changing the world as we know it. Maybe it's about changing our minds and finding peace and truth in ourselves. Maybe, just maybe it's about finding happiness. And there are no amount of journeys to foreign countries or trips across the country that can make one happy. You’ve got to look inside for that. And the answers we are going to find are most likely going to be different for everyone. It's not a one size fits all approach that they seem to want us to believe. Its something that we can’t get from TV or learn in college. It’s something we will find only by closing our eyes and looking deep within our souls.
Everything we could ever want, be, do, or have is literally all “within reach."
WAYS YOU CAN HELP: Ask yourself "what do I really need?" "what do I really want to be doing?" and "Is it already in front of me?" If not, reach within for some answers. They might be easier to find than you think! The answers will likely not lead you to something that has to be "world changing" or a huge transformation of your life...as in Jim Carrey's words: "there's nothing bigger out there than you!" Just work on you, transform you!