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Sunday, December 04, 2011

The good life

Processing beets to simmer in vinegar and spices on the wood stove

It seems like in all my online communities at once, we are all suddenly asking one another, "what is the good life?" Most of the answers are now necessarily contexted in a simple reality: there are fewer and fewer rural people. The National Geographic, perhaps under the influence of its new TV partner News Corp., has now gone so far as to suggest saving the Earth by dropping whatever we're doing in the boonies and heading for the nearest apartment complex.

I get that it takes six times as much copper for me to discuss this with you than if I lived in town, and all that. But I think that if the plug gets pulled (fun link), as well as more likely scenarios I can think of when reviewing the situation we're all now in, I am and would be happier where I am and feel somewhat justified, despite the Tolkien quote concerning advice, in recommending this life.

Beloved and I read books in the Seventies that had a lasting impact on our thinking about how to live, among them this one, this one, this onethis one, and this one. They influenced everything that we have done since.

But the one that impacted my personal outlook the most, despite some criticisms of the authors that have surfaced since, was this one. Helen and Scott Nearing pared down, pared down, and pared down. They bought land as cheaply as they could, avoided debt, dug, sowed, composted, built with native materials, found items and salvaged objects, made implements, bartered, ate simply, and entertained themselves and their guests at home with acoustic instruments and with reading, talking, debate, and contemplation.  Their regimen of strenuous effort for a short part of the day and rest and relaxation thereafter, with an extremely simple and low-cost diet, appears to have added many disease-free and senility-free years to their lives.

I would not or could not be the Nearings; I'm not as social or socialist as they were, and I remain mildly omnivorous. But I do believe in paring down, and I do believe in subsistence. My own book about this, written about ten years ago, does not really do these thoughts justice, though it tries: it recommends watching the nearest mountain (if you have one nearby) and having a cup of tea -- as opposed to busying ourselves with running to big box stores for huge television sets.

You can do this in an urban setting. I have. But access to land matters; no one can exist without food, and as farmers disappear and corporations take over, almost everyone's food is fast diminishing in quality and becoming downright dangerous. And as the climate, abetted by greed in general and the climate obtuseness of the American establishment in particular, destabilizes, access will become an issue. If we know this, and we are independent-minded enough not to wish to become a burden on others, might we not seek a way to produce, and not merely consume?

Work, as defined by the industrialists, the bankers and the politicians, has come to mean, more and more, a cubicle existence in exchange for chits which we may exchange for toys which are made of poisions. But especially for food -- which has also been poisoned, with our water and our air. Henry Kissinger said, "Control food and you control the people."

Do you wish to be controlled?

Apples and garlic in the kitchen; the empty bucket at left held beets until today

A way out of the present difficulties, though perhaps it will not do for all, is to reverse the trend of urbanization, at least family by family, as way opens. As we pare down and refocus and become more productive -- not productive of poisonous toys and needless services, but of our own necessaries and subsistence -- I submit that we will be happier.

Not to mention revolutionary.


Edit: a friend wrote essentially the same post much better than I did: http://www.squidoo.com/live-the-good-life, writing at exactly the same time. "Great minds..." ^_^



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