Trash Transformation Story #5 – A Mess Culture

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Yesterday morning started with a crystal clear blue sky day. The sun had already begun warming the air and ground. I set out to collect the trash in the beautiful park nearby. Songbird choirs rejoiced as they found an abundant breakfast in the lagoon. After a while of collecting from the path and in some areas requiring a little bushwhacking, I switched gears into creating mode.

Gathering the decaying plants around the lagoon, I formed them into a spiraling circle on the shore. Further searching in the area produced no more materials to use in the nature art piece, save for a single pine cone. So I decided to put the bag of garbage in the center. After I took my pictures, I carried the bag with me to throw in a garbage container.

Part of me thought, “Should I just leave it there?”

During the last few weeks of campaigning for my trash-to-art clean up mission in Mexico, I have received a huge range of comments/feedback/suggestions about the project. My practice of honouring all expressions involves the reflection upon each and every comment – to uncover the truth being shared and to incorporate it into my own.

One comment that I received was that we should leave the garbage where it was and let it pile up – so that people can see it – because part of the problem is that we have other people cleaning up after us. I hear the truth of this when I have a five year old tell me (after tossing his garbage on the ground) that he believes “it just disappears”.

Let’s face it – we are a mess culture. We are used to other people cleaning our messes, if at all. Whether it is the store employee cleaning the milk you spilt, your parents picking up the clothes and dishes from your room, paying others to clean and to fix, the “sweep it under the rug” mentality of the landfill, the abandoned construction materials, the decimated country after a war or city after a natural disaster, the oil slick spills, the festering gashes of strip mines, the ravaging of deforestation, or the poising of air and water – our culture perpetuates the story that we can continue leaving messes without facing the consequences of such action (or lack thereof). It’s a linear-based consumptive model of a society. It’s no wonder our children need to be taught to take responsibility for one’s mess – there is little example to go by.

How can we as individuals have an effect on the whole? I love the ‘leave no trace’ mentality. I also love the ‘leave the space more beautiful than when you arrived’ mentality as well. Can you imagine how the world would transform if everyone took that perspective? I mean, really, isn’t that what most of us wish about our overall lifetime? To have left the world better than when you arrived – to have had a positive impact on all our relations? Can we incorporate that awareness into our daily lives, moment by moment?

This daily practice of beautification is not about ‘saving the planet’ because we depend on the world. It is about recognizing our part within the whole interdependent organism that is Earth. It is about recognizing the Earth as a sacred being, worthy of our deepest respects, humility, and honouring. It is about falling in love. When we can see the Earth as such, we can see each other as such and the inner will reflect the outer in respect, humility, and honour. In other words, if you want to be shown respect, give it. Cultivating this kind of relationship with one’s Self and with one’s home is a powerful tool of transformation.

So should we just leave the trash laying around? It’s easy to feel that way when I clean one day and find a bunch of new trash the very next. But when you see the size of the piles already collected, the argument to leave it so that ‘people will see’ seems moot. How could it not be visible? Part of the problem is the thought that someone else will do it. At a certain point we realize that we are someone else. It still needs to be cleaned up.

To honour the truth that the awareness of a problem is essential to implementing a solution, I will be making my trash collection visible. If they cannot see the pile of garbage already, perhaps they will see an individual cleaning it up and transforming it into art.


If you are interested in getting involved and supporting the trash-to-art clean up project with Skye, check out the campaign page here.


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