Why simple living?

“…there are often many things we feel we should do that, in fact, we don’t really have to do. Getting to the point where we can tell the difference is a major milestone in the simplification process” 

Elaine St. James

Choose simple living…

As an antidote to culturally induced achievement neurosis,

As a form of psychological hygiene,

As a method of financial security where a broader range of lower skill occupations can suffice,

As a protest against waste, excess and destruction,

As a means to support human ecology,

As a more just way to live fairly with other people,

As a way to lead life less at the mercy of external influences, and

As a  expression of joy, happiness and kindness.

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The Chinese buffet

“Western civilization is a loaded gun pointed at the head of this planet”

Terrance McKenna

Last Friday a colleague resigned at work. Their leaving function was a little different in that we were all invited out for a Chinese food luncheon.

We ended up going to one of those all you can eat buffet style meals. Probably not my preferred choice for lunch, but a nice social gathering nonetheless.  Our group arrived at the restaurant a twilight time around 2.40 pm. Right in the quiet period where lunch has largely finished, but dinner is still several hours away. Because of this most of the dishes in the buffet were running pretty low. The owner of the restaurant (I’m assuming) saw the size of our group and ran into the kitchen. We could hear him out back enthusiastically encouraging the kitchen staff to get cracking! I say enthusiastically because I don’t speak Mandarin.

While he rallied his troops we all lined up by the buffet. I was about 8th in line and looking at what was on offer I started to suspect that the only dish that I was interested in (steamed veg with noodles) would run out before I got there. However, an interesting thing happened. Because the buffet was running so low people were very conscious of not taking too much. My colleagues carefully picked very small portions in an attempt to ration the food so that everyone had something on the first helping. Without saying so people were severely restricting their plate so that everyone would have something to eat while we all waited for the buffet to be refilled.

It occurred to me afterwards that life is a giant buffet, but unfortunately we don’t have any sense to the length of the line or just how little there really is to go around. We also don’t think about the people that aren’t born yet that will definitely want a spot at the back of the queue.

The result is that we don’t feel any compulsion to manage our appetite for resources in a way that let’s everybody get their fair share.

Just take people driving an SUV or a Hummer as an example. They are thinking status symbol, not hideously inefficient and unfair consumption of petroleum, road space and other resources.

Imagine just how different our life would be if everyone realised they were standing in that huge global queue for the giant resource buffet. Unlike in the restaurant story there isn’t a kitchen staff beavering away to cater to our endless gluttony. Once we have used up the entire world’s supply of helium in our party balloons there simply won’t be any left.

Today my overpriced vegetables provided nourishment and a lesson.

In the words of Hervé Kempf,  “Consume less; share better”.

Business 2.0

“To think is easy. To act is difficult. To act as one thinks is the most difficult”

Johann Wolfgang Von Goeth

We don’t own a business right now.

I became disillusioned with business.

Sure you can deliver low quality stuff to other people at an affordable price by exploiting your labour (and in doing so rake in a great living), but if we keep doing this…

Pursuing a never ending downward cycle of decreasing quality, bad relationships and lowest cost just what will we spend all that money on? The inferior quality junk that other people make by themselves exploiting the efforts of others?

Disillusioned completely, but recently I have become re-energised about business. But not the typical greed ethos.

I’m calling it business 2.0. It’s about developing a corporation that is really solving someone’s problem at a local level, employing local people and paying them well. Its about reinvesting all of the profits back into things that maximise the good of people and the planet. I want to grow the company so that it can heavily influence the full chain of a production process for the betterment of us all.

Lofty and noble. Doomed to failure….probably. Nevertheless I hope that we can hit upon an undercurrent that appreciates quality and charity. My goal is to be cost comparative to greedy commercial competitors yet better in everything that really matters.

I am actively investigating options. Your suggestions on industries or markets or business ideas appreciated! Low harm suggestions preferred!

“Work as interesting as poker, chess and fishing” by Alan Watts (1973)

[This is a short excerpt taken from The Book by Alan Watts. I was first introduced to Alan Watts via this wonderful cartoon. Enjoy Mr_S]

For unless one is able to live fully in the present, the future is a hoax. There is no point whatever in making plans for a future which you will never be able to enjoy. When your plans mature, you will still be living for some other future beyond. You will never, never be able to sit back with full contentment and say, “Now, I’ve arrived!” Your entire education has deprived you of this capacity because it was preparing you for the future, instead of showing you how to be alive now.

In other words, you have been hypnotized or conditioned by an educational processing-system arranged in grades or steps, supposedly leading to some ultimate success. First nursery school or kindergarten, then the grades or forms of elementary school, preparing you for the great moment of secondary school! But then more steps, up and up to the coveted goal of the university. Here, if you are clever, you can stay on indefinitely by getting into graduate school and becoming a permanent student. Otherwise, you are headed step by step for the great Outside World of family-raising, business, and profession. Yet graduation day is a very temporary fulfillment, for with your first sales promotion meeting you are back in the same old system, being urged to make that quota (and if you do, they’ll give you a higher quota) and so progress up the ladder to sales manager, vice-president, and, at last, president of your own show (about forty to forty-five years old). In the meantime, the insurance and investment people have been interesting you in plans for Retirement—that really ultimate goal of being able to sit back and enjoy the fruits of all your labors. But when that day comes, your anxieties and exertions will have left you with a weak heart, false teeth, prostate trouble, sexual impotence, fuzzy eyesight, and a vile digestion.

All this might have been wonderful if, at every stage, you had been able to play it as a game, finding your work as fascinating as poker, chess, or fishing. But for most of us the day is divided into work-time and play-time, the work consisting largely of tasks which others pay us to do because they are abysmally uninteresting. We therefore work, not for the work’s sake, but for money—and money is supposed to get us what we really want in our hours of leisure and play. In the United States even poor people have lots of money compared with the wretched and skinny millions of India, Africa, and China, while our middle and furthermore, the younger members of our society have for some time been in growing rebellion against paternal authority and the paternal state. For one reason, the home in an industrial society is chiefly a dormitory, and the father does not work there, with the result that wife and children have no part in his vocation. He is just a character who brings in money, and after working hours he is supposed to forget about his job and have fun. Novels, magazines, television, and popular cartoons therefore portray “Dad” as an incompetent clown. And the image has some truth in it because Dad has fallen for the hoax that work is simply something you do to make money, and with money you can get anything you want.

It is no wonder that an increasing proportion of college students want no part in Dad’s world, and will do anything to avoid the rat-race of the salesman, commuter, clerk, and corporate executive. Professional men, too—architects, doctors, lawyers, ministers, and professors—have offices away from home, and thus, because the demands of their families boil down more and more to money, are ever more tempted to regard even professional vocations as ways of making money. All this is further aggravated by the fact that parents no longer educate their own children. Thus the child does not grow up with understanding of or enthusiasm for his father’s work. Instead, he is sent to an understaffed school run mostly by women which, under the circumstances, can do no more than hand out mass-produced education which prepares the child for everything and nothing. It has no relation whatever to his father’s vocation.

[…if you haven’t clicked the cartoon at the top yet…now is the time to do it!!]

The Coiled Spring

“I don’t think necessity is the mother of invention. Invention, in my opinion, arises directly from idleness, possibly also from laziness – to save oneself trouble”
Agatha Christie 

The Spring has finally sprung! Today I wanted more life and less screen time so here are some blasts from the past. I may write tomorrow (but only if it is raining!). Enjoy the weekend friends!

Your Love Alone is Not Enough

Game Theory

Solitude

The simple woman

Alternatives to the Growth Myth

Fitchburg – go on foot

“Make a good use of the present”

Horace

There are many memorable passages in Henry David Thoreau’s book Walden. I particularly like this one about travelling and seeing the country.

“One says to me, ‘I wonder that you do not lay up money; you love to travel; you might take the cars and go to Fitchburg today and see the country.’ But I am wiser than that. I have learned that the swiftest traveller is he that goes afoot. I say to my friend, suppose we try who will get there first. The distance is thirty miles; the fare ninety cents. That is almost a day’s wages. I remember when wages were sixty cents a day for labourers on this very road. Well, I start now on foot, and get there before night; I have travelled at that rate by the week together. You will in the meanwhile have earned your fare, and arrive there some time tomorrow, or possibly this evening, if you are lucky enough to get a job in season. Instead of going to Fitchburg, you will be working here the greater part of the day. And so, if the rail-road reached round the world, I think that I should keep ahead of you; and as for seeing the country and getting experience of that kind, I should have to cut your acquaintance altogether.”

Are you ‘travelling and seeing the country’? Enjoying today, but at the same time fulfilling your deepest desires in life?

Or are you just working for money and living for a future that may never actually arrive?

There is no point hating your day to day life then blowing a year’s worth of money on an artificial two week vacation.

We must remind ourselves to live right now and to live very well wherever our path is taking us.