A few years ago I was having dinner with some new acquaintances, and we were talking about the way that my friend Khalif lives. Khalif, his wife, and his two sons live in a 580 square foot eco-friendly house that they built themselves (with the help of friends). They don’t have plumbing, and they lived without electricity for several years (now they have solar panels). They use the “humanure” method for dealing with their own waste. They eat vegan, local, mostly non-processed stuff, and almost everything they buy is used. Their lives are simple, low-impact, healthy, and happy.
This way of living is so outside the realm of a couple of my dinner-mates that they said, “I admire him, but I could NEVER live like that.” [Interestingly, Khalif lives more like (and still more comfortably and conveniently than) many people around the world do.]
Of course, as a long-time activist and humane educator, I’ve heard plenty of people say “I could never (insert item here)!” or “I could never live without my car.” or “I could never make the time to cook my own meals/eat healthy/look at the impact of my choices on others.” or “I could never do what (person) does.”
I’m sure you’ve heard people say “I could never….” about something. We encounter something new, strange, and perhaps uncomfortable to us, and we’re certain that we could never.
There are some things we should definitely never do, but most of our “nevers” stem from what we’re accustomed to. We grew up eating certain kinds of foods — it’s a part of our tradition, our culture, our daily habits — so we think we could never choose differently. Likewise, many of us grew up with running water and plumbing and electricity at the flick of a switch, so we can’t imagine being able to live without them. Cars take us where we want to go with speed (usually) and convenience, so we come to believe that we could never do without them. And with the explosion in technological devices, there are now all sorts of gadgets that we could NEVER live without.
I’ve had plenty of I could nevers. I never thought I’d stop eating animals, live without a television, or go to the bathroom in the woods. I never thought I’d come to dislike shopping or pop culture. I never thought I’d come to love humanity. I never thought I’d do public speaking as often as I do.
You get the idea. We close ourselves off to positive change because it’s scary and inconvenient at the time and not what everyone else is doing; but it’s actually more just a matter of what we’re used to. If we’re willing, we can create new, more compassionate, just, and sustainable habits, so that eventually we look back on some of our choices and think “I can’t believe that I ever thought I’d never….”
Take a close look at your nevers and consider whether there’s any wiggle room for “I’m willing to try….”
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