“Meager and largely symbolic”
February 28, 2012, 5:05 PM
Filed under: Uncategorized

My personal hero

I received the following comment about this blog last night: “You’re deluding yourself, Sam, if you think your meager, largely symbolic adjustments, will make even a small difference to the POWERS of this world now driving us all toward catastrophe. You’re amusing yourself and your readers when there’s real work to be done.”

Dear Commenter: I respectfully disagree -except for the part about how the POWERS of this world are driving us all toward catastrophe. I think WE are the powers, and WE are powerful enough to make the changes needed. But as your comments refer to me personally, I’d like to address them.

When I see the home-grown foods on my plate, meal after meal after meal, and  know that  the soil my supper  was raised in is teeming with vitality and nutrients from the compost that I added to it, that the seeds that were planted were saved from their mother plant, and that the food was raised without chemicals by the work of my own hands,  I don’t consider that ‘symbolic’ at all, but self-reliant and enabling. Sure, it’s just me and Michael growing our own personal food here, but if those that read this blog can be inspired to grow a bit of their own food too, or adopt a plant-based diet, or purchase food from a local farmer, then we’re all creating a food democracy, as Dr. Shiva refers to it above.  When I reduce, repair, recycle and reuse every single thing that comes through my life, I don’t call it symbolic, I call it conserving the earth’s resources-and the ‘F’ word: FRUGAL.  But I  also like to believe that by NOT generating the 4.4 pounds of waste a day that the EPA says we Americans create, that my efforts are responsible, not necessarily symbolic. When I make the decision to stay home, rather than to drive my car, it actually IS symbolic I guess, of my desire to reduce my dependence on oil, so I’ll give you that one.When I learn new skills (like grafting fruit trees or playing bass or creating this blog) and share them with my friends and family, I call that ‘creating community’, not symbolic. When we turn off our heat pump and instead fill the wood stove with the logs from downed trees that Michael has cut, hauled, split and stacked, we don’t consider that meager or symbolic, but energy-efficient. When I patronize local businesses, I’m pretty sure the owners of those businesses don’t consider my business symbolic either. I could go on and on, but I’m hopeful I’ve helped my readers understand that my meager efforts are indeed meager, but are the only way I know of to bring about the changes I want to see in this world. If an idea or a practice doesn’t have a HUGE impact, is it really only symbolic and not worthwhile?

From the ‘About Tennessee Transitions’ page of this blog: “If we collectively plan and act early enough, we can create  a way of living that’s significantly more connected, more vibrant and more fulfilling than the one we find ourselves in today. Now is the time for us to take stock and to start re-creating our future in ways that are not based on cheap, plentiful and polluting oil but on localized food, sustainable energy sources, resilient local economies and an enlivened sense of community well-being. This blog is my attempt to create that new way of living!”

Your comments and opinions are always welcome here, even if you don’t agree with mine 🙂 I don’t know what the ‘real work’ is that the comment referred to, but I’m sure willing to learn!


10 Comments so far
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You go, Sam! Sure, our individual efforts may not produce some massive change, but if we all did them, it would be huge! Less pollution clogging our oceans and landfills, better, fresher food and health, etc… Meager, maybe, but we have to start somewhere. I think many times we choose a cop-out, instead of just setting down to do those little mundane everyday things that in the long run will lead to peace of mind, a good heritage for our children and those after, and better health for us and the earth.

I think the real work is in those daily things. I entertain no delusion that politics or huge corporations will do things better anytime soon, or that there’s anything I can do to speed that, other than voting with my dollars like you talk about, saving my own seeds, and the such like.

Anyhoo, I get fired up about this, obviously. Thanks for being an example to me and many others.

Comment by Beth Hill

Sam, you’ve inspired me to make changes in my own life. That’s real.

Comment by Amerika (@amerikag)

I appreciate you, Sam. You walk the talk and that is what we need! Thank you!

Comment by johnshuckj

I think of the wisdom in these words: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Comment by Cassa

If you are the “meager” population in a seriously one-sided political arena such as northeast Tennessee there is considerable truth to what the unknown commenter says. However, in the business world, the revenue flow from that same “meager” population can be the difference between profit and loss. That is what is known as POWER!

Comment by Jerry

That has always been the background question that haunts those who would create a change, going back as far as you may wish to look. “Will what I, as an individual, choose to do about X really make any difference in the bigger scheme of things, or am I fooling myself?”

Choosing to take a different seat on a public bus could surely be seen as a futile, “symbolic” gesture… but Rosa Parks did it anyway, and the Civil Rights Movement was born on her narrow shoulders. Teaching neighbors how to make their own salt by evaporating sea water could be seen as a waste of time when there was literally tons of refined salt available to purchase from the British occupiers of India… but Mahatma Gandhi did it anyway, and the independence of India was born in his gnarled hands.

What can we, here in a corner of a Southern state, hope to gain or contribute by learning how to grow our own food, frequent local merchants and find alternatives to driving 15 mpg vehicles two blocks to pick up our supply of free trade coffee? For the impact on history, time will tell, but in the very real here and now, I know it creates a revolution in how my family lives its life, spends its money, and participates in our communities – micro and macro. What revolution do you wish to take part in today?

Comment by Sandy Westin

um, Sandy, have you ever considered being a writer? hahhahahaha very nice indeed!

Comment by simpleintn

Sam, you continue to inspire me, too. Thank you for being an example to us all.

Comment by Sally Wiggins

Thanks everyone for your comments. I’m still thinking about it though, and wonder what my commenter meant by ‘the real work that needs to be done’. Delicious food for thought!

Comment by simpleintn

“People say, ‘What is the sense of our small effort?’ They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time.” ― Dorothy Day

Your bricks are not symbolic, Sam. You’re laying a foundation. Thanks for all you do and thanks for sharing it with all of us!

Comment by Lori Pickett-Jones

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