How Our Contradictions Can Inspire Creativity
Inhabiting contradictions is second nature. We are born into complex systems and so we have to learn how to live in a way that brings our values and our actions into alignment. This takes patience and perseverance and it is not always possible.
Although I rally for solar energy and sustainable living, I rent a room in an apartment complex powered by conventional electricity and bookended by overwatered lawns. As lucky as I am that I can make a little of my living writing about ecological resilience and collective action, the laptop that I use to connect with communities is built on the bedrock of environmental destruction. Some days, I live in fear of the future and other days, I am wrapped up in a cocoon of chai tea with friends and mountain hikes and the kinds of encounters that spark hope in my heart. I careen between sorrow and succulence, between loss and love. Contradiction is a constant.
As important as it is to learn how to mitigate tension in our lives, it's just as vital to explore ways we can conceive of these contradictions as opportunities for co-creation and connection. If living with contradictions is inevitable—and I think it is by virtue of our profound interconnectivity—then it's our responsibility to channel the slippages between the world we want and the world we live in into powerful calls to action. When I tap into the frustration I feel at the dissonance between my desire for water conservation and the sheer stupidity of my neighborhood's sprinkler system, I'm stoked to go to the housing board and battle for drought-tolerant grasses. In this sense, contradictions can drive us to do a little more good in the world.
It is so very difficult and so very amazing to be a person. We are surrounded by immense pain and by incredible possibility. And so the question that we need to ask ourselves as we work toward building a richer present and a more sustainable future is how can we resee the contradictions that we inhabit as fertile grounds for creativity? How can we accept that nothing will be perfect—not in ourselves, not in our world—and still find the energy to fight for better?
We can begin this lifelong practice of asking & of seeking by jotting down the contradictions that we inhabit each day. Maybe you want to eradicate global dependency on fossil fuels but drive to work every week. Maybe you're hungry to help heal the marshlands but are clueless on what you as an individual can do. Maybe you know eating much less meat is essential for minimizing greenhouse gas emissions but still find yourself chowing down on a chicken sandwich at lunch. Living these contradictions doesn't make you a "bad" person—hell, it's just affirmation that you are a person, wildly flawed and beautiful and capable of change. What matters, really, is that you name these contradictions and work to transform these tensions into tangible tools for sustainable living.
Kate Weiner is the Creative Director of Loam, an environmental arts magazine, and the co-creator of feminist blog The Shapes We Make. A recipient of the 2015 Brower Youth Award for environmental activism, Kate travels the country to talk about joy-driven activism as well as teach workshops on ecological sustainability.