I have spent my life much like the proverbial pirate looking at 40, wondering why I never quite fit into today’s society, when the truth of the matter has always been that I am far healthier and happier because I never bothered to change. Too often I find that there is a sad disconnect between people’s daily lives and the world in which they live.
This is not a matter of religion or spirituality or a higher power or anything remotely hard to believe in or have faith in. This is not about the unseen or all knowing. This is, in fact, about the entirely visible and completely knowable. This is about the connection that each of us shares with our world. This is about respect. This is about life. This is about living.
Regardless of our backgrounds, we all live because our world allows us to live. We all require food. We all require air. We all require water. We will all die equally efficiently when the balance of our world no longer allows us to enjoy any one of those elements in the proper balance.
So it saddens me to see the gross overconsumption in our society. Luckily many of us have started to embrace the idea that we have the power to change these patterns through our daily choices and simple actions.
The real price we have paid for this lifestyle starts with our immediate health. We always appear very busy, but it is a frantic pace that involves lots of stress and executive sitting. It involves meals in excess and in express. Our health is taking a huge hit. We can learn to eat healthier and exercise more. Let’s stress less. Let’s live happier, honestly happier.
The second layer of cost associated with this lifestyle is our quality of community. We have managed to create a world where our entertainment is too often manufactured and artificial. Hard work is a blessing, especially when it is geared toward providing us the essentials of a happy life. Time spent with our kids, loved ones and family is priceless and irreplaceable. That is what we work for. Not for a paycheck, power or prestige. It is time to redefine success. Let’s reward strong families and good kids and encourage people to become connected to the reality of our environment.
The third way that this lifestyle is costing us is with its legacy of an environmental wasteland. These huge houses — and by huge I mean that houses have grown from 900 square feet to 5,000 square feet in the last 40 years — are costing us exponentially in natural resources. These houses also tend to be remote from the places where their owners work, creating the need for long commutes. We can implement change by advocating for a sustainable village model in our developments where people can live near their places of employment, creating shorter commutes and viable public transportation.
That brings me to the heart of the matter. We need to get outside and live our lives. I mean really embrace the world around us and gain our inner happiness by being in balance with the natural world.
It starts by knowing and accepting the outside air temperature. We can build our houses to take advantage of passive solar design to maximize their comfort while minimizing their dependency on energy. Learn to use our houses as a base for living, then get outside and live. We will find that we do not need as much space or as much stuff filling that space once our lives becomes more active.
Simplify our possessions and maximize our actions. Realize that our work should enhance our happiness and our quality of living — and that our quality of living is measured by our interactions with family, friends and loved ones, not in the accumulation of possessions or wealth. Let’s get outside and actually live our lives.
We need to respect the balance of nature. Sit outside on an autumn night and listen to the sounds, smell the drifting scents, and allow your eyes to slowly absorb the delicate images surrendered by the evening sky. Swim in the waters of our rivers, streams, bays and oceans. Taste the difference in salinity. See the difference in clarity. Feel the momentum of time in the irrepressible flow towards the sea.
Get outside and play with your kids. Live your life as an example to them. Let their lives be an example to you. Understand that we are all the same regardless of age, regardless of color, regardless of religion and regardless of money.
We have been presented with the greatest opportunity that any generation has ever held. We can allow our kids to grow up in a world of constant and magnificent changes, changes that carry real and significant meaning. We can deconstruct our walls of consumerism and overconsumption that have put our world in peril.
These are beautiful days. Get outside and embrace living. The answers are right here in front of each of us.
Born and raised in Southern Anne Arundel County, Leo Newberg has spent his life working along the shores of the Chesapeake, building, sailing, designing and repairing boats of all sizes. He lives with his wife and young daughter within easy biking distance from work.