Two year old’s ask it all of the time, and we (as adults) often dismiss the question: why? You are asked: “What do you do?” but how many times are you asked: “Why do you do what you do?” To answer that question would take some thought, and would probably open us up to thoughts that we might not want to consider.
For those of us striving to live an environmentally sound life, the question can be uncomfortable. Why do I keep bees, have a large garden, collect water, compost grass and food scraps, save seeds, use no pesticides or herbicides, can and forage food, recycle wood for the projects around the place? Why do I want to do more?
Answers begin to bubble up if we think long enough about what we do. Often when we explain those answers to others, they come across as ideological and sometimes self-righteous, sometimes we just don’t know. We become accustomed to the “glazed” look after a minute, and we realize that the answer has become rambling, incoherent or that the question was only asked out of feigned politeness.
Answers range from philosophical to utilitarian, from selfish and self-righteous to ideological and ambiguous. “It’s just the right thing to do.” Of course, the answers rely upon the question. When people ask: “What do you do?” the simple answer is to tell them you get paid to do it. However, if someone asks: Why do you do it?”
“For the money!” becomes an empty answer; one that reminds us of who we are. Money doesn’t cut it at the end of the day.
And so we are left wondering why. There is only one reason to do anything and it is right under our nose whether that is the compost pile or the wild apple and plum trees that we might pass everyday while walking the dog (rescued from the pound).
Why do I keep bees, have a large garden, collect water, compost, save seeds, and use no poisons? Why do I recycle scrap wood for projects? Because not to do so would take away a quality of happiness that doing such things gives me.
Why do I do what I do? It gives me a higher quality of happiness, and as Aristotle wrote: happiness depends upon ourselves, and the highest quality of happiness depends upon why we do what we do.