Willful, not wanton, destruction

From my newsletter this week:

Every month, during the majority of her years, a bleeding woman’s body turns itself inside out in a cycle of creation and destruction. At least, it feels that way. We cramp, ache, feel like the end of the world is happening sometimes, lash out, tell hard truths we might otherwise fear to speak, cry, and bleed for several days as our bodies release the materials that would have been used to build new life, had we become pregnant that month.

This process is one of the human body’s most intelligent design mechanisms. The materials needed for new life cannot be stored indefinitely- they must be fresh and still have a certain potency to them to be fertile. Yet, if they go unused, they can cause toxicity in the body. Therefore, to shed these materials is just as important as manufacturing them. The body has worked this out to perfection: nothing is released that should not be released, nothing is wasted, all of it is biodegradable, and all of it is part of a cycle that completes itself.

Look at how many things are created or manufactured in this world without a plan for release or destruction: plastics, batteries, cell phones, buildings, cars, and more. None of these items currently has the guarantee of a closed, complete loop that is deliberately designed to take things all the way through their predictable life cycle. I mean, sure, we are ENCOURAGED to recycle plastics and batteries and e-waste. But it’s not a presumed, natural part of the cycle of production or acquisition. We know we can sell homes, or leave them to others in a will upon our deaths, but what actually happens when they begin to degrade, or require major repair? Many people just move and leave it as someone else’s problem, rather than closing the loop behind them.

What if we began, as a society, choosing to include destruction and/or completion as part of the cycle of creation? The recent movement toward compassionate death at will for terminal patients allows for this. The recycle-upcycle movement is an encouraging example of this. But truly, for each of us, what if we had to ask ourselves thoughtful questions at the outset of a new purchase or venture? What if it was just a natural part of things to think about the end as we enter a new beginning? It might mean less waste, more compassion, greater care and attention to detail, less consumerism and more quality. It might mean more mindfulness about what we choose to offer, and take from, the seemingly constant stream of “stuff” in our lives.

It is in this spirit that I encourage everyone to think about their holiday gifts this year. Give things that can be used completely. Give things with a shelf life. Give things that are not things, but experiences to be savored in the moment. Give with the intention of making an impression without leaving a trace, as best you can. Willful, not wanton, destruction is a form of creation.