I’ve lived on a rural nation highway for a few years.
It’s unpaved and unmaintained by the county or the state, lined with bushes, and extra often crossed by deer and jack rabbits than individuals.
It’s a throwback to an older, less complicated lifestyle.
It’s additionally a throwback to a scene I’ve all the time remembered from Mad Males, the place Don Draper and his household end their picnic after which nonchalantly throw all their trash into the grass under.
My expertise strolling and operating and biking and driving on this highway has been to witness the return of that angle. Individuals dump tires and outdated mattresses. They dump particles from building websites. They dump beer bottles and sweet wrappers. They dump unlawful deer kills and for some inexplicable and alarming purpose, a variety of useless canines.
At first, this simply pissed me off—particularly as a result of the nails stored giving me flats. It made me offended at humanity and the place that I lived. I attempted calling the police and animal management and my native politicians—in fact, they did nothing. I put up cameras which did nothing. I despaired in regards to the local weather and the longer term. I thought of shifting.
However then one morning on my stroll with my youngsters, a thought hit me that was each releasing and indicting. What number of instances do I’ve to stroll previous this litter, I believed, earlier than I’m complicit in its existence. Even when I moved to a spot the place this didn’t occur, I believed, it could nonetheless be occurring right here. Marcus Aurelius was proper when he stated you could additionally commit injustice by doing nothing.
So I began cleansing it up. The tires went into the again of my truck—and I paid to have them correctly recycled. I used to be down within the gullies by the aspect of the highway selecting up soda bottles and plastic luggage. I tossed numerous nails and screws into the trash. I’ve placed on face masks and gloves and scooped up useless goats, a useless calf and useless canines which I burned or took to the again of my ranch to decompose in a much less disruptive place.
I can’t say the expertise was pleasurable, however it was empowering.
The Stoics would agree that the world could be ugly and terrible and disappointing. They’d simply remind us that what we management is what we do about this. We management what distinction we attempt to make. We management whether or not it makes us bitter or makes us higher—whether or not we complain or simply get to work.
However the final reward got here extra not too long ago, as a result of we spent the previous couple of weeks on the seashore as a household. My youngsters have been excited to play within the ocean and to construct sand castles and have ice cream, in fact. But they appeared to have probably the most enjoyable operating up and down the empty seashore within the morning—unprompted by me—selecting up trash left by the seashore goers the day earlier than and asking for my assist lifting them up so they may put it in these paper bag trash cans that the county places up each few hundred yards.
I posted about it on Instagram as soon as and other people confirmed me there was an entire hashtag of individuals doing this. It began with a viral Fb put up in 2019, which has 335,000 shares and 102,000 likes (and counting). A man posted earlier than and after images with this caption:
“Here’s a new #problem for all you bored teenagers. Take a photograph of an space that wants some cleansing or upkeep, then take a photograph after you will have performed one thing about it, and put up it.”
The problem unfold globally because of the #TrashTag hashtag. You may see individuals cleansing up a seashore in Mumbai, filling up dumpsters filled with trash in Kansas Metropolis, and accumulating rubbish in Vietnam.
A Day by day Stoic reader emailed me a short time again to inform me about how his selecting up trash unfold domestically. In his townhome group, there’s a trash dumping drawback. “It was driving me mad,” he wrote. He put up cameras to attempt to catch offenders. He stayed up late to see if he may run them off. Then he got here throughout the video I made and as an alternative of policing his space, he started cleansing it up. “I noticed it rub off on a few of my neighbors and household,” he stated. And now, the variety of neighbors selecting up trash outnumbers the variety of neighbors dumping trash.
The Stoics spoke of our “circles of concern.” Our first concern, they stated, is our thoughts. However past that is our concern for our our bodies then for our speedy household then our prolonged household. Like concentric rings, these circles have been adopted by our concern for our group, our metropolis, our nation, our empire, our world.
The work of philosophy, the Stoics stated, was to attract this outer concern inward, to learn to care as a lot as doable for as many individuals as doable, to do as a lot good for them as doable.
There’s an indication by the observe I run at in Austin, put there by the soccer participant Hollywood Henderson (who paid for the observe). It says, “Go away This Place Higher Than You Discovered It.”
To me, that’s a reasonably good life philosophy. In issues large and small (however principally small). As Zeno stated, “well-being is realized by small steps, however is actually no small factor.” You don’t have to avoid wasting the planet. You don’t have to avoid wasting somebody’s life. Are you able to simply make issues a bit bit higher?
There’s a Mr. Rogers quote I like. “After I was a boy and I might see scary issues within the information,” Rogers stated, “my mom would say to me, ‘Search for the helpers. You’ll all the time discover people who find themselves serving to.’”
We resolve what we search for in life—can we get mad on the individuals making the mess or do we glance in direction of the individuals cleansing issues up? We resolve whether or not to despair or discover hope and goodness.
However I really suppose we are able to go additional. Will we resolve to be one of many helpers? Will we resolve to choose up the trash? Will we resolve to go away this place a bit higher than we discovered it?
That’s what makes the distinction…and life higher for everybody, however particularly you.