We consider ourselves conscientious consumers. We recycle, reuse and repurpose as best as we can. We aren’t all out New Wave hippies (though some of our acquaintances may claim us to be so!) although we subscribe to a few of its practices: holistic medicine, progressive political leanings, organic/natural food choices; social justice; emergent Christianity. Then last week, we made a huge leap into a world we were somewhat familiar with but never crossed fully into with both feet. We traded in our gas-guzzling SUV for a Nissan Leaf, an all electric, zero-emissions car about a fourth of the size of the SUV.
The reasons for it were all practical for us – not paying for gas, the SUV was ten years old and showing signs of wear and tear which was beginning to cost us a tidy sum in repairs; it passed emissions (this time!); not paying for gas.. you get the idea. We were compelled not to give anymore dollars to the gas companies. Thus far, we kept to getting gas from companies with the least environmental and social impact instead of nilly willy pulling into any gas station be it BP or Exxon. We felt it was time to have our lifestyle match our ethics. This seemed like a natural step forward. So we took it.
Acquiring an all electric car constitutes a willingness to make lifestyle changes and committing to it. You can’t just burn gas and gallivant around town (which we did!!). You have x amount of charge each time which gives you x amount of miles. You have to be thoughtful in planning your day. In fact, one could argue, you are forced to be thoughtful. It requires us to plan out our days, where and what we want to go and get done.
If we planned to go further than 100 miles, we needed to know where Nissan dealerships or Blink charging stations are along our route. While your car charges up, which could take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours, you suddenly find yourself with all this time on your hands. We have taken to using it to read. Though most days, we just charge up the car during the night and it is good for a day’s worth of commuting from Seattle to the Eastside (Bellevue) and a stop or two at grocers with some charge left.
Having a new car that is somewhat of a novelty and is a completely new way of driving has brought certain notions and beliefs to the surface. One frequent comment we encounter is the categorical “It’s not for me because it impedes my lifestyle; I’m always on the go”. Granted, the Leaf or a similar vehicle is definitely not for everyone. It is not for those with children and who do a lot of long distance driving.
Upon further conversation, I realise that the thought of having to spend some time thinking and perhaps being alone while doing so, scares the heck out of people. Who mandates us to do all these things that we hold as necessity, I wonder? When confronted with a new idea or possible change, we balk. There is an almost unspoken but clearly implied pride in being ‘busy’. The Bible exhorts us to “be still and know I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Why do we so fear the moments that thoughtfulness requires? Why is contemplation such a wasteful act? When was it deemed to be slothful? Does thoughtful silence endanger our modern lifestyles? What do we sacrifice at the altar of modernity? What does being ‘plugged in’ really mean? In ‘Choruses from The Rock’, T.S. Eliot observes:
O world of spring and autumn, birth and dying!
The endless cycle of idea and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.
All our knowledge brings us nearer to death,
But nearness to death, no nearer to God.
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
This experience so far, in such a short time, has propelled me into desiring to be a person who lives her life with awareness and thoughtfulness. Aside from the obvious changes we have had to make, I find myself enjoying the peace of mind that comes with this little car. To have something that we use daily affirm our moral beliefs has made us feel a part of the solution. We took one step away from the status quo of gas/petrol dependency. This one major change to our lifestyle precipitated a different level of thinking for me. Instead of pushing us into wanting more, it has made us want to purge things in our storage. Instead of wanting to reach for unattainable notions of success flashed upon us via reality shows, the glossy pages of magazines and towering billboards, we thoughtfully choose to find pleasure in sharing blueberries we pick from our backyard and view our ability to laugh, giggle, share our thoughts and just be silent together, a blessing. Who knows what new steps we will take next? Perhaps, if you stay tuned, you may one day hear of us chucking city life for a simpler life in the San Juan Islands?! Now, that would be turning over a new Leaf!