This morning, after making over easy egg, bitchin’ sauce, and cheese sandwiches on Darshan focaccia bread our friends Heather and Anthony gave us, I was washing dishes in the public restroom down at the beach park.
I’m doing dishes in a public restroom, and I’m listening to Steven Pinker’s Enlightenment Now. It’s the chapter about happiness. Pinker’s general thesis is one of optimism: the world is getting better; progress is real, persistent, and historically very likely to continue. His methodology is scientific, data driven, and cogent. Happiness is measurable relatively and absolutely, but also is fantastically hard to track, especially over the many various countries and over the years of our vast history. Read the book, I’m not going to summarize it.
So anyway, I’m listening to this scholar make the argument that happiness is increasing globally over time, despite the grumbling you hear in the media. And I’m having a great time.
In Jones, my camper van, we don’t have many dishes. We are constantly learning how to minimize our need to wash dishes, both in the number of dishes and the creative number of uses of each dish between washes.
“That must suck,” says a guy washing his hands.
“I mean you have to push the button over and over,” he says.
The sink, in order to keep careless or ignorant people from just leaving the faucet going, has a button you have to push for water to come out of the spigot. And it only puts out about twelve ounces of water per press. I’m washing 2 cutting boards, a bowl, a few pieces of silverware, and an old bitchin’ sauce container we reuse as a Tupperware.
All morning, Pinker has been in my ear while I cook, poop & walk Spin, telling me that even as late as the mid 19th century, a person would need to labor for like 2 hours in order to have one hour of reading light in her lamp after dark.
“I’m glad I don’t have to pump it out of a well or carry it in a bucket on my head 6 miles back to my hut.”
Man, I sit in my van, and I have an electric fan for ventilation, running reverse osmosis water, a gel foam memory mattress, a refrigerator, and I can tether my MacBook to my iPhone so that I have access to basically all of Earth’s recorded knowledge. All of these trinkets are powered by the sun through a solar array mounted on top of the van.
I don’t have the new iPhone with the portrait mode camera, the screen of my MacBook is only 13 inches. I can’t afford to out at eat sushi every night. And the vehicle part of my van runs on GHG emitting gasoline. Plus, I can’t surf because it’s raining today.
I get to work with good people on environmental, equity, and transportation campaigns. We’re selling humanism, and attempting to push the dial a little toward compassion and stewardship. I’ll always ambitiously strive to promote progress, never satisfied with stagnation.
But I’ve got a growing crew of lovely people with whom to engage, a really cute dog, and unlimited access to clean drinking water, and healthcare/entertainment/informational/transportation technologies that the richest guy in the world couldn’t have 100 years ago.
And that doesn’t suck.