To Russell Brand: We Just Figured Out the Meaning of Life in the Shower

Hey Russell,

I’ve been listening to your podcast and looking forward to Season 2.  I’m not listening to it chronologically.  I just listened to the Yanis Varoufakis straight through twice.  

I was in the shower this morning and was thinking about the many conversations you have with agnostics or atheists or non-goddies such as Yanis or Brian Cox. I’m also not much down for the Woo Woo Waitress in the Sky, but at the same time, I cannot deny the pull toward spirituality and the ritual expression of it in the form of meditation. You talk about the dichotomy within you between the pursuits and rewards of altruism and your narcissism. I feel that in myself as well, and a companion tug of war between my knowledge of the physical world and the connection I feel to a spiritual plane.  And you talk very eloquently about misdirected channeling of self-fulfillment through consumerism and never-ending acquisition of the material. 

But there is a bridge through consumerism to a higher, more fulfilling pursuit.  

I apologize that I need to explain to you my company. It is not a plug, I promise. It will make sense in a minute.  I am starting a store in Amsterdam called Ozarka which is an upmarket, low waste prepared foods and lifestyle store where all of our packaging is sustainable alternatives to single-use plastic and all of it is return for deposit.  When people shop with us, they return all of their packaging, which is then sanitized and put back into circulation.

I like m’little luxuries. But I’m in the process now of replacing all my fancy department-store cosmetics, creams, moisturizers, atomizers, exfoliationizers, shampooizers, and conditionerizers with stuff I make myself.  And here in lies the…scrub.  We don’t think about what goes on our body nearly as often as we think about what goes in our body.  Most of the chemicals in body care products are there for skin feel and preservation. For example, we’ve been marketed to, and thereby convinced that, a “greasy feel” is undesirable in body moisturizers.  In fact, if you just wait a damn minute, a homemade coconut/jojoba oil-based moisturizer loses its greasy feel and keep the skin softer, longer, than commercial moisturizers. It's a fraction of the cost, last longer.  Commercial moisturizers don’t want either of those properties. They are less profitable.

Is it possible to achieve the eternal through "correct consumerism?" I say "Yes." 

At Ozarka, our aim is to create mass adoption in order to make a measurable impact on sustainability. And in order to do that, you need to create as little a shift as possible in consumer behaviour and habits in order to make those habits sustainable. Or you need to replace convenience, which is killing our culture and our environment, with something better, like connection, pleasure, time for one’s self.  In fact, it is the time I took for myself this morning that lead me to writing this diatribe to you now.

It isn’t the consumption itself that is the problem, it is what we consume.  What if we replace the ritual of consumption with the ritual of production? The ritual of self-care?

What if what we consumed didn’t offer convenience to get us on to the next thing that makes us unhappy, but slowed us down so we could participate in happiness? And when you are happy, it is easier to be kind. And kindness propagates. It’s passed on from one person to another. And from, wait for it, one generation to the next. That is divine. That is eternal. From generation to generation, we are shifting the paradigm and definition of a fulfilled and meaningful life.  Our threshold and tolerance for cruelty, dismissive attitudes, abuse, and exploitation becomes lower and lower.    

Today, I dry-brushed my skin with a bamboo brush and then showered with body wash,  shampoo and vinegar conditioner that I made myself. I then moisturized with a moisturizer I made myself. The process of self-care placed me in a state where I was able to create the head space where I came to this conclusion. I am relaxed. I am happy and I am in a giving state of mind.  I make products for my friends based on what they need. And they know when it comes from me, there is nothing to throw away because all my packaging is reusable.  With this approach to consumerism,  I consume not things, but time. I give not just things, but time, attention.  I give love and thoughtfulness to another person. And none of this takes hours. It takes minutes. But what it gives…what it gives…

Your faithful Ozarkan,
Beth