Reflections on a celebratory event throw up questions about the down side of our party culture. Does letting our hair down have to entail forgetting about the problem of waste?
A friend recently recounted the story of a happy event that she had attended, and which ended up making her feel very miserable. She is sensitive to environmental damage and lives lightly on the earth.
It was a landmark birthday party – a big celebration in the country, in a shearing shed. The birthday person organized the event to be a performance night – bountiful food, many acts, much music and rollicking bush-dancing. A perfect way to make a splash, to mark this landmark in a life.
Only – in the process – much waste was produced, and there was a general tone of excess, throwing care to the wind. This lack of concern about how the event was impacting the equilibrium of the surrounds – the noise factor, and the waste that would need to be disposed of – was quite unsettling to her, and indeed led to a feeling of hopelessness and isolation.
In conversation about this experience we wondered about the way we ‘do’ celebrations in white middle-class Australia. We like to ‘treat’ ourselves, do something out of the ordinary, unbutton our shirts and let it all hang out. This all implies not thinking about the consequences of our behaviour, not accounting what we use, or at best, planning to provide more than we need, in the name of luxury and being ‘special’. We like to spoil ourselves, to indulge once in a while….to get out of the harness of the routines or the blandness of our lives.
I’ve heard that in some countries, to break through the predictability and constraints of life, and to shake up the social order a little, there is a particular day of the year when roles are reversed, the low become the high, the rules are put aside and freedom reigns. This is thought to let off a little steam, so that the old order can continue.
Maybe it is this impulse that is felt in this story about a rural birthday party in a shearing shed. Let your hair down once in a while, to not become too regimented and tight for the rest of the time. This might go toward explaining why excess is indulged in; but there must be better ways, less wasteful ways of unleashing our spirits from habit and restoring inner equilibrium. Ways of seeing thoughtfulness and care for environmental impacts as human qualities, to be celebrated!
Kit Shepherd, Transition Bondi August 2018