Eat/Pray/Love movie advertisements are now appearing all over my local part of Los Angeles. I haven't read the book or seen the movie and I'm not planning to. But the stark graphics of the advertising campaign pump the words EAT - PRAY - LOVE into my head on a regular basis.
According to online reviews, the Eat/Pray/Love book is a travel log, "a story about a girl who thought everything ... she wanted, would bring her happiness. It didn't. It didn't for her, and possibly not for many other women." It sounds like it begins as a story of disenchantment with life in our current society.
Skipping over Gilbert's subsequent decision to burn vast amounts of fossil fuels with corresponding greenhouse gas emissions (i.e. travel the world) in order to consume Italian cuisine, gain 23 pounds, and (if the online reviews are to be believed) superficially consume ashram spirituality and friends' donation money; my intent here isn't to review either book or movie. Instead ...
Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh once offered a "driving meditation" in which each stoplight became a reminder to breathe, to return to center. What if we similarly tweaked each glimpse of an Eat/Pray/Love advertisement?
Rather than an enticement to spend money vicariously participating in a consumer's story, seeing those words on a bus bench could become a reminder to each of us to Eat, Pray, and Love more genuinely.
Michael Pollan reminds us to
Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
Processed foods demand great amounts of earth resources (packaging, pasteurizing, freezing, plus health care resources when all those highly-processed "foods" make us sick). Scientists now tell us we can achieve as much reduction in global warming impact by changing our eating choices as we can by changing our transportation choices.
A plant-based diet -- or, at least, eating patterns where meat is more of a condiment -- means that we can more ably feed our existing urban populations from the limited urban and suburban land within reasonable access-distance to the city where the people live. Conventionally raised meat (beef in particular) is much harder on the earth's ecosystems than its vegetarian equivalents, in terms of water use, land use, pollutants, and greenhouse gas emissions.
The Locavore movement and Eat Local Challenge (as modified by a local urban homestead project) guide us in selecting appropriate foods and goods:
If not from BACKYARD, then locally produced.
If not LOCALLY PRODUCED, then Organic.
If not ORGANIC, then Family farm.
If not FAMILY FARM, then Local business.
If not a LOCAL BUSINESS, then Fair Trade.
By eating primarily fresh, local foods we reduce the "food miles" of each meal -- the distance each bite has traveled from farm to plate. We reduce the "embodied energy" -- the commercial energy (fossil fuels, nuclear, etc) that was used in the work to make any product, bring it to market, and dispose of it.
As we relocalize our food habits, we vote with our buying dollar to support and rebuild the local food network -- a network we desperately need to have bustling and thriving as we leave this brief time of cheap abundant fossil fuels and venture into the post-petroleum era. As you feed yourself, your family, and your guests within the Pollan and Locavore guidelines you will create a new, wiser sense of what is "normal" and "acceptable" within your immediate community.
Prayer at its most basic form is focusing of attention. It is affirmation of the spirit, the life force, the very best within us. It calls us to humbly accept our place within the energies of the cosmos.
What if each time we saw the Eat/Pray/Love ad campaign, we paused to consider prayer-in-action -- variously called "karma yoga," "social justice projects," or "community service" in different religious populations. Prayer-in-action is bringing that very best within us alive in real life.
Prayerful action has no place for earth-raping mass-produced imported consumer goods, atmosphere-searing airflights, or condoning industrial agribusiness with its petrochemicals which undermine farm worker health as well as eroding arable soils and polluting rivers and waterways. Prayerful action has no place for pillaging the Gulf of Mexico and the people of Iraq so that we can gobble the earth's last remaining drops of oil.
Prayerful, life-affirming action accepts and manifests the realities of this small, beautiful planet --humanity's life support system-- by saying "ENOUGH!" to consumerist excesses, by learning to repair, reuse, and share the things we already have. Prayerful action means finding contentment within our local surroundings -- joy in "here" rather than yearning for foreign travel and "getting away." Prayerful action means refusing to endorse and be a party to further ecological destruction; it means instead, shifting to oil-free lifestyle habits. My personal understanding of prayer demands self-examination as to how the basic patterns of our lifestyles harmonize and cultivate peace within the context of all living beings.
Love means reaching out to our fellow humans with caring. It means embracing concepts like COEXIST and social justice and bringing them alive in our everyday actions. It means unraveling racism, and bridging the socio-economic class system.
Amidst peak oil-doomer predictions of riots and social unrest, Love is an acknowledgement that the undoing of that civil unrest is to facilitate solutions that work for all, including "lower class," poor, and immigrant populations and people of color.
Love means actively seeking ways to reach out to others with the new skills of resilience and the ideas of Transition. It means opening our reskilling classes -- advertising them within poorer neighborhoods, and assuring that there are reduced cost tuition arrangements. It means reaching out with ideas such as LETS and time banks to help the urban poor (not just the middle class greens) cultivate local economic systems to meet their families' needs.
Love means opening our hearts and our ears to the practices of other cultures -- including Southern Hemisphere and third world cultures -- releasing our pride, and admitting that they too have practices and knowledge and solutions which can help us all out of this crisis.
I invite you -- each time you see an EAT PRAY LOVE billboard -- to take a moment to consider how you're doing on this path of Transitioning society to lifestyles which cope with the multi-fold crisis ahead: the end of the oil age, the escalation of climate change, and the simultaneous collapse of the mainstream economic system. Take a moment to consider what next action you can take on this path of Transitioning to earth-wiser, more socially-just ways.