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Living in Two Worlds At Once, or “Do I Contradict Myself? Very Well Then, I Contradict Myself&

Updated: Oct 6, 2023

A few days ago, a woman driving me through a pounding rainstorm in New England revealed to me that she both works for an organization that receives some state funding and is president of the state libertarians (which call for eliminating funding of state programs as well as no or only voluntary taxes). As Walt Whitman said, “Do I contract myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. (I am large. I contain multitudes.)”

Besides, it’s not like I don’t contradict myself in many ways also: I drive through Taco Bell on the way to the ecological meeting, I write about bioregionalism and sense of place while flying all over the country, and here’s the kicker of late: I totally support the Occupy Wall Street movement although I will be out of contact with it in early December for four days because I’m getting on a cruise ship with an amusement part in the center of it.

For many years, I’ve realized how much we live in two worlds at once: one foot clad in a warm, fashionable boot walking through the world to which we were born (which has been steadily going to hell in a handbasket); the other foot, bare of course, in the world we’re creating by how we live, work with others, build and interact with community, land, place, work, soul.

It’s hard to walk this way without falling over at times, but the alternatives don’t appeal to me much. Stepping completely into compliance and acceptance of a world in which profit motivates action over values isn’t a way to live with integrity. On the other hand (or foot), being a purist, even taken to extremes (say living off the grid, maybe hiding out in a tent on a public lands, foraging and hunting) doesn’t make for many opportunities to improve the world for the multitudes we contain and that we are.

I’m not defending Taco Bell, Libertarians, or cruise ships — I think none of these are ultimately the way to move ahead in good relation to the social contract. But this world is imperfect, and so are we. There are also many ways to grow our own food, and not just by gardening (although of course I’m in favor of that exponentially). The important thing is that we’re both honest about our contradictions and committed to doing our part to cross over, not just on our own but with our people, to the world we believe in: one that replaces poverty with peace, powerlessness with voice, blind greed with generous vision, and isolation with community.

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