I have the day off, and that means I get to write at a coffee shop—one of my favorite things to do. I used to dream of sitting in cafés when I was growing up. I pictured myself writing with a cup of coffee in front of me for hours at a time. I just thought I would have to move to Seattle to accomplish this dream. With the explosion of Starbucks and other analogous brands, almost every neighborhood has a café. If only they were within biking or walking range.
Actually, in many cases, they are, but the spaces between home and café aren't exactly welcoming to pedestrian or bike traffic. We have set up our living spaces to make cars comfortable, and it's too the detriment of nearly everything. We have to burn fossil fuels to accomplish almost anything. Also, I feel like our souls are suffering. We are isolated in our motorized cages, away from the context of our neighborhoods and Nature itself. In the absence of a background culture that is personally meaningful, we become contextless. And it becomes far easier for marketers and politicians to become our culture. Why do we have arguments like Android vs. iPhone, Playstation vs. Xbox (vs. Steam), or Mac vs. Windows? Ultimately all of those arguments/identities are about something we buy. Our allegiances are commodified, and few of us—myself sadly included—are stopping to question the underlying assumptions that underpin them. Why must we buy things to have identity?
At the risk of sounding like the idealistic mystic that I am at my very core, we are already someone worthwhile and important. We don't need external commodities to have an identity. Each and every one of us is the current end result of an evolutionary process that has been running continuously for billions of years. The genes and hopes of our ancestors—and, make no mistake, ultimately we all share a common set of ancestors if you go back far enough—are brought to life in every action we take…and in those we choose not to take as well. Each of us comes with a rich and beautiful context from the moment we draw our first breath.
And that is only a starting point. We are not solitary creatures—not even reclusive introverts like me. We are each of us a web of relationships, interdependent colonies of individual selves with constantly shifting boundaries between "me" and "you." We rely on each other for our well-being and our very existence. If you're reading this, thank you for being my context. Together we co-create the world around us through our actions and our inaction. And you can't put a corporate label on that.