The experiment of stepping back and looking at what I have always taken for granted has, from the start, provoked a feeling of fascination mixed with exasperation, accompanied by a desire to explore more mindful, meaningful alternatives.
Observe flaws in a way of doing things, in my case the General Western Way of Doing Things, and the very reasonable question will come back – “OK so what’s the alternative?”… “Umm, well, that’s tricky – actually I have no idea”… “Ah. Let’s talk again when you have a solution”.
But a search for The Alternative is probably like the quest for the Holy Grail. It would be wonderful if a perfect solution could be articulated, an alternative that’s a) easy and b) applicable to everyone. But, of course, there is none.
Actually, the fact that we are living according to a formula that is easy to follow and applicable to everyone is itself a big problem. This has led to, amongst other things, wastefulness and a shrinking of cultural diversity that might be reaching a critical point.
As a way to constantly improve our standard of living (in terms of owning things that make life easier, and for material gratification), there probably has been no better alternative. What we have is utterly efficient, immersive and purpose-built. It’s applied universally from birth, and if we’re lucky, we’ll get to be at the good end of the pyramid. If that’s what’s being sought, alternatives are not relevant.
a) difficult to define and implement, and
b) unique to the individual involved.
An individual might be driven by concern for ecology, community, commerce, or fuelled by love, guilt, fury. Or something totally different. There can be no manual when there’s no common goal.
So, “What’s the alternative” is maybe the wrong question. Starting there usually leads to shrugging and giving up.
What kind of person am I? What kind of world do I want to live in? These questions are a more workable starting point, if someone’s up for it. And, rather than finding answers, maybe what’s important is to live with the questions for a while.
To find and follow one’s own path, it’s probably necessary to start from scratch (in one’s mind, at least) – each person, individually. Gradually and quietly beginning to live in a way that’s aligned with their values, an independent life alongside the surrounding structures.
So, whoever else is out there seeking an alternative – I’m with you every step of the way, brothers and sisters. But you’re on your own.