In the years, since I published the book and starred in the film No Impact Man, I have been in a huge, worldwide conversation with literally thousands and thousands of people. I have traveled to, Skyped with and emailed with colleges and businesses and workshops and activist groups around the world–from New York to Indianapolis to San Francisco to Hungary and the Czech Republic and Vietnam and China and Costa Rica and Mexico.
I have met many, many amazing people working to make a happier planet and a happier people. Some work on climate, some on race, some on sustainable farming, some on corporate sustainability, some on child care, some in education and on and on. I have also met many people stuck in jobs that require them to do things they don’t believe in. And I have met people at the beginning and middle of their adult lives that feel bereft of direction.
Whatever their jobs and stations in life, these people have amazed and humbled me for this reason: They all have a deep and abiding desire to help. What can I do, they ask me? What is my place in helping with the world crises? What role can I have? How do I contribute to a world that is fair and just and loving and safe not just for me but for my local and planetary neighbors?
The thing is, it is not a question you can answer for someone else. Yes, you can tell them what march to go on or how to compost or what website to look at. But when it comes to choosing a life path that both makes you happy and serves others in a way that is meaningful to you, there is no one answer that fits every person.
Some people are introverts. Some extroverts. Some radical. Some temperamentally conservative. Some good at math. Some good at singing. Each set of talents and each set of personal circumstances means that we each have our own unique set of opportunities and limitations when it comes to finding a good, meaningful life. To find a purposeful and safe way to live–where we both have good lives for ourselves and also help make good lives for others–requires, for most of us, a sort of personal quest.
Having spoken to so many people who want to embark or are already on that quest but who need guidance and support, it is towards helping them that I am turning my work. Yes, I still live and am intrigued in many of the tenants of the No Impact Man lifestyle I discussed on the No Impact Man blog, book and film. But helping people on the wider quest to find meaningful lives that contribute to solutions to our many world crises feels like the next logical step.
This is why many of you who followed No Impact Man may be surprised by the slightly different subject material of this blog and my other recent writings. Far from rejecting my work as No Impact Man, however, I feel that I am actually more fully embracing and expanding it and I hope you feel that way too.
My next book, due out in January 2015 and titled How to Be Alive (you can pre-order it here), is about that quest for the happier, more impactful life (we are still working on a subtitle but one working version is A Guide to the Kind of Happiness That Helps the World–what do you think?). My intention with this blog is also to facilitate a conversation about that quest (and also to have some quirky fun too) that I hope you will participate in.
In the fullness of time, I plan to launch a podcast, publish more books and ebooks. I also have plans to run workshops and give talks and run discussions in people’s homes and generally help, in my small ways, to facilitate this conversation about finding the good life–the life that is good for ourselves and good for others.
I hope, as I cast around and try to figure out the right way to do this, you will be patient with me. If you disagree with me, don’t abandon me. Tell me. Leave a comment. Help me. Help us.
Where this work differs, I think, from many other “self-development” discussions is that it embraces the harder conversation about our roles in world events. It embraces the fullness of our roles not only as individuals, parents, partners, spiritual seekers but also as activists and citizens.
I have noticed that many other writers, who make a living by giving talks and writing books and mentoring and encouraging self-development, never say a political thing. By taking that apolitical approach, they never offend anyone, never challenge anyone. Meanwhile, many of the political and activist writers don’t discuss the role of individuals in world events and the connection of those events to the development of individuals.
I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to pretend that the spiritual is different than the political or that the political is different than the spiritual. I don’t want to pretend that there is such a thing as the good life for oneself that is separate from seeking the good life for others or that seeking to help others can be done for the long haul without seeking the good life that sustains oneself.
This is a risky approach for me as a writer and author who needs to earn a living from the support of readers and followers and people like you. Sometimes when I post, I lose followers as well as gain them. This, in part, is because I gained a lot of followers with No Impact Man and people don’t understand where I am going. “This isn’t about not making trash,” you might think. “This isn’t about burning less fossil fuel.”
When, for example, I posted about small things white people like me could do about race terrorism, I lost quite a few blog followers. What has race got to do with environment and spirituality, people seemed to ask? Pope Francis answered this question for me in his recent encyclical when he said “A sense of deep communion with the rest of nature cannot be real if our hearts lack tenderness, compassion and concern for our fellow human beings.”
In many ways, the question of our roles in racial justice, environmental justice, social justice are not just political. They are spiritual. It is not until our hearts break open with compassion and we crave justice for everyone that we can achieve our own true spiritual and personal freedom.
I don’t identify by religion–I embrace wisdom where I find it–but I understand that that sense of spiritual communion that Pope Francis mentions is what so many of us seek in our lives–communion with the planet, with each other, with ourselves and our sense of purpose. Meanwhile. so many of us feel the opposite of communion. We feel alienated.
Helping with the conversation about how each of us can find the good life and leave behind that feeling of alienation by finding paths that lead to the common good of ourselves and the world is what my work is about.
I hope you will be patient with me as I find my way through this work. Indeed, I hope you will participate in it–in the conversation, in the quest. This quest is not for everyone. But I believe it is for many. I hope you will join me in this work and conversation, here on my blog, in the discussion surrounding my coming book and in any other way you see fit.
Meanwhile, here are some of the many ways you can support this work and participate in the conversation:
- Join my email list so I can stay in touch with you and send you writings and also so you can communicate with me, on this blog and otherwise.
- Leave comments and questions and ideas and thoughts here on the blog (if you receive blog posts by email, click on the title and it will bring you to the page where you can comment). Converse!!
- Share my blog posts with friends and family on your social networks and by email.
- Follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Also, actively participate in the conversations there by commenting and sharing my posts with your friends.
- Consider supporting this work financially by donation though my non-profit effort The No Impact Project. I hope to build out and improve the webpage, start a podcast, speak in more schools etc. All of this needs more than just my enthusiasm. Even $25 is a big help or you can click the “monthly” box to make a regular donation.
- If you want to be patron of this work by offering more substantial support, email me here to begin a discussion.
- Consider using my services as a mentor specializing in helping people develop entire lives (not just careers) that are in line with their values and that meaningfully help the world.
- Invite me to facilitate an event in your home to talk about the quest for the good life with your friends, relatives and neighbors by contacting me here.
- Have me speak at your workplace, college or organization.
- Engage the No Impact Project to provide a No Impact Week in your organization as a method of employee or member engagement. Also enquire about our other engagement initiatives. Use this form to ask more.
- Let me know of your interest in the soon-to-be-launched online version of my class Detoxing Your Life from the Outside In by sending me an email here.
- Email me here to tell me you want to donate a property where I can start the planned residential Zen/spiritual/yoga/community, environmental and social change education center.
But most of all, please just stay engaged. Please leave your comments and ask your questions and even argue with me. Show me that you value this conversation. And please, sign up for the emails. Thank you!!