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When I work from home, this is my view (except, you know, not standing on my stool).

I think a lot about how our desires intersect with our impact on the world and on each other. It‘s easy to condemn consumption, to vilify a thirst for beauty, to prescribe rigid self-denial as the antidote to a what’s-over-there curiosity. But none of these are bad traits; it’s their side effects that can be destructive when unrestrained, thoughtless, individual-focused, and nihilistic.

My current home is visually full, the collage of a magpie who climbs up dumpsters to peer inside and sifts through thrift stores. It’s got a plant ratio of 1:10 sq ft. It’s a merry-go-round of projects and passions: my Mpls print on the wall and the Hennepin Ave detritus I’m collecting in the jar and the thread ball made of discards and the dishes I happily carry to parties to avoid single-use.

Self-denial is the easy way out, the puritanical fool’s urge for a black and white world where we wrestle with nothing and learn nothing. It’s the mirror image of that same mindless consumption, part of a dangerous imbalance of extremes, a view of self that vacillates between purity and sin, between excess and deprivation.

And the problem with it is the simultaneous denial of self and focus on self. In that mindset, there’s little space for compassion, context, the collective good that we each need to center.

When we accept who we are, when we acknowledge the ways our choices tie us to one another (and often hurt one another), there can be discomfort, shame, guilt. To realize how much of our comfort is built on exploitation isn’t easy.

But when we choose to wrestle with this, when we start separating our worth from our responsibility and acknowledge the first without denying the second?

We start shaping ourselves, sharpening ourselves, honing and focusing and tending to ourselves. We can choose to live within the constraints of a Hippocratic Oath, respect our idiosyncratic motivations and desires, and figure out our own power and role in the common world.

For me, it’s bright colors and plants by my desk as I make/design/write. It’s curb-picking and thrift-store-sifting and living like I matter—like we matter.

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