In The Omnivore’s Dilemma Michael Pollan writes:  “Dreams of innocence are just that; they usually depend on a denial of reality that can be its own form of hubris (362).”  He was talking about vegetarianism, but in fact, it could also be a blanket statement applying to much more of life.  My own life at present offers several examples, and one of them fits nicely into this blog topic.

I spent some days with my dad, sister, and nephews.  He has moved into a new home with some acreage, expansive gardens, and orchard.  He cooked dinner for us and took considerable pride in the fact that all the vegetables served came from their garden.  The next morning he admonished me in jest for not using their freshly-picked blueberries in my oatmeal.

This makes me smile with recognition, because I am just the same:  over-proud of my harvest and the meals we are able to make from the land.  I can’t help it–there is the taste of the miraculous in them.  There is also an entirely new level of appreciation when you a part of a process from beginning to end, and can experience every level of effort that goes into it.  Harvesting and shelling beans for example is a very time-consuming process and something of a comical effort considering how cheaply you can buy them at the store.  Still, I will keep doing it.

According to Pollan, my dad and I are not alone.   “An economy organized around a complex division of labor can usually get these jobs done for a fraction of the cost, in time or money, that it takes us to do them ourselves, yet something in us apparently seeks confirmation that we still have the skills needed to provide for ourselves . . . It may be little more than a conceit at this point, but we like to think of ourselves as self-reliant, even if only for a few hours on the weekend, even when growing the stuff yourself winds up costing twice as much as it would to buy it at the store (364).”

The irony here also makes me smile, because my dad came to pick me up in his plane.  He has graciously offered to leave his spare plane at our local airport so that I can take lessons, something I have dreamed of doing for many years.  How easy it is to step from the illusion of self-sufficiency to the gloss of luxury.  Flying is a luxury so immense that the majority of the world’s population has never experienced it, and probably never will.  There are suggestions that we in the West will also lose this great privilege within a decade when the Earth’s petroleum supply has been exhausted.   The 2006 documentary A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash purports air travel, and pretty much all travel as we know it today, will very soon be available to only the wealthiest 2%.  Does this dire prediction mean I should jump, or rather fly, while I still can?  Or does it mean I should find a better, that is, a more responsible and sustainable new hobby?

I find I am once again torn between morality and selfish desire. I ask myself these question and get two opposing answers.  In one instance I imagine the thrill of bouncing blind through a sea of clouds and I am faced with my own hubristic dreams of innocence.  The other answer states very clearly: The only way to lead is by example.

Do I fight against the extravagances of my nature and my culture, or do I soar, for possibly the last time of our era, in flight?