Properly scaled change

Coming as it did after the “Day of Service,” President Obama’s inaugural speech continued this train of thought (and action) by invoking duty, humility, restraint, and responsibility along with hope, virtue, and truth. (I was amused by the coverage of the speech because much of the media was scrambling to identify the line that would be remembered in the ages to come – it seems to me that our new president’s speech defied that sort of analysis because he very pointedly avoided speaking in sound bites.) I was repeatedly struck by his use of the pronouns “we” and “us” – in his very first line he says “humbled  by the task before us” when he could very logically and understandably have used “me.

The call to a Day of Service and the inauguration speech’s challenge to take action made me think more deeply about what change for the better I personally would like to effect in the world. It would all seem very overwhelming – what can one person do in the face of so many large-scale problems – except that I have been keeping one of my New Year’s resolutions and reading an excellent book of essays by Wendell Berry: Home Economics. In the second essay, “Getting Along with Nature,” he writes about the damage an industrial economy wreaks on the relationship between man and nature – it is because of the massive scale of the industrial economy that man and nature are so often considered to be in opposition, whereas “A properly scaled human economy or technology allows a diversity of other creatures to thrive.” In the following piece, “Irish Journal,” he writes,

Industrial hopes have almost invariably tended to devalue…modesty of scale….. [T]hat poor work is affordable is an illusion created by the industrial economy. If bad work is done, a high price must be paid for it; all “the economy” can do is forward the bill to a later generation – and, in the process, make it payable in suffering.

It seems that the bill has now come due – President Obama gave a sobering list of the challenges we face. How will we make ends meet, pay the bill, and move on? It would be amazing to see all Americans step up to the plate and think about what each and every one of us could do with our education/training/experience/passions that would help to make a difference, no matter how small, in the lives of those less fortunate than we are.

My work with GrowingGreat has inspired me to think about re-entering the food business, but not in the way I originally was involved in it by work in restaurants and catering. With a pending move and another chance to reinvent myself, I’m now hoping to find something “socially meaningful” to do with my food background – education? work with food pantries? Stay tuned, and in the meantime, give some thought to what YOU can do to help pay the bill – it’s the small scale work that will allow others to thrive.

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