I had to swear an oath today. Like a real, legal, raise-your-right-hand-and-repeat-after-me oath. The fact that I had to take it wasn’t a surprise – I’d made a special trip to City Hall to swear myself in as a DDA board member (yup, I’m that cool). The thing that threw me for a loop was how surprising it felt.
I’d never sworn an oath like that before, and though my awkwardly-recited promise to the city clerk to follow the Constitution and serve the city to the best of my ability was clearly both a formality and a set of things I was going to do anyway by virtue of not being a jerkface, it felt strangely meaningful. Had I ever intended to misuse my incredibly influential one vote on a quasi-governmental board, after swearing such a formal oath, I think I’d really think twice about it.
It got me thinking about the other things I do and believe in my life that I think of as meaningful to me. Could they be even more so? Could I be more dedicated to them if I swore an oath? Possibly. Not necessarily easy things though. For instance, I don’t think it would matter one bit if I raised my right hand and promised Gunshy that I’d love and take care of him to the best of my abilities forever and ever, because that’s the easiest thing in the world and has virtually no downside. It would be like promising to eat an ice cream sandwich every day forever: both are things I’m naturally inclined to do, due to the amazing wonderfulness of ice cream sandwiches and Gunshy.
But what about something I believe in but is difficult to adhere to at times? Here’s one: I think of myself as being a person dedicated to not adding new material things to the world unnecessarily. I’d like my time on the Earth to be marked by acts, not by a floating trash continent in the middle of the Pacific. So I try as hard as I can to buy everything I’m not going to consume used or recycled. There are enough buildings, cars, clothes and furniture on this planet right now to support the world for sixteen more generations of humans (facts confirmed by wikiNatalie.com), so buying something brand new feels sort of naughty to me.
That doesn’t mean I’m not naughty. While I have a genuine affinity for “things with a history,” and practically salivate my way through Goodwills and resale boutiques, I also have an unconquerable desire for an iPad. And a Chevy Volt. Oh, and I love clearance racks in department stores. So, in light of these temptations (there could be one or two more…or six or seven…but who’s counting?), I wonder if my resolve would be deeper if I swore an oath?
So I’m going to try it. Here’s my oath (you can’t see me, but as soon as my right hand is done typing 50% of the letters in this oath, I’m going to raise it and recite it. Or maybe I’ll use my left to buck the world-wide prejudice against my lefty brethren):
I, Natalie Burg, do solemnly swear to keep my footprint on this Earth small. I will commit to digging through thrift store inventories for all my purchases, not because it is cheaper or more fun (which it is, and it is), but because the items there have a uniquely high value, as they save the world from filling up with more new things. I will be the nerd who brings my own carry-out box rather than take food home in styrofoam, because, let’s face it, the fact that we’re still using styrofoam for anything is insane. My future cars will all be used, my dwellings historic, and my puppies will all come from shelters. Someday I will own an iPad, but only if I can find one refurbished. I swear to uphold these promises and be faithful to the spirit with which they were made to the best of my abilities. Forever and ever. Amen. Or something.
I’ll keep you posted on how this works. I promise.