Sunday, January 22, 2006

Be In Love With Your Life

by Skald

"However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest. The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is. You may perhaps have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poor-house. The setting sun is reflected from the windows of the alms-house as brightly as from the rich man's abode; the snow melts before its door as early in the spring. I do not see but a quiet mind may live as contentedly there, and have as cheering thoughts, as in a palace. The town's poor seem to me often to live the most independent lives of any... Cultivate poverty like a garden herb, like sage. Do not trouble yourself much to get new things, whether clothes or friends. Turn the old; return to them. Things do not change; we change. Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts...

Moreover, if you are restricted in your range by poverty, you are but confined to the most significant and vital experiences; you are compelled to deal with the material which yields the most sugar and the most starch. It is life near the bone where it is sweetest. You are defended from being a trifler. Superfluous wealth can buy superfluities only. Money is not required to buy one necessary of the soul."

--Henry David Thoreau

The entire capitalist edifice is built on shaky ground. It is utterly dependent on the big lie that happiness depends on social status earned through conspicuous consumption. Without this mass delusion, it crumbles.

In America... and many other countries... poor people are trained to be ashamed. They may have plenty of food to eat. They may have an adequate place to live. They probably have functional clothing. Most of the "poor" in America are also blessed with luxuries such as TVs & stereos. Unless they are homeless, most have running hot water. Most have access to public libraries, and thus a wealth of books (and usually computers too). Physical deprivation is not the source of their misery.

Most "poor" people in America suffer as a result of shame and insecurity, not deprivation. They are taught, from birth, to envy the wealthy.... to equate worth with luxuries. Insecurity eats at them. Trained to think of themselves as "lesser", they naturally burn with anger and resentment. Their neighborhoods are often violent, mean places.

But Thoreau is right. The rich enjoy few real advantages.... and a great many handicaps. For they too believe the big lie.

Herein lies the power and magic of voluntary simplicity.... it erodes the power of delusion. Bit by bit, you come to realize that gadgets, luxuries, and wads of cash are not necessary for happiness. Get rid of your TV..... a year later you'll wonder what you ever "needed" it for. Buy your clothes at thrift shops.... and you'll soon discover that few people can tell the difference. Give away clutter: clothes you rarely wear, books you'll never read again, music you rarely listen to, appliances you never use. Downgrade to a cheap used reliable car... or switch to a motorcycle... or, best of all, live in town where a car is not necessary.

Having done all this, move to a smaller and cheaper place. Keep the process going... continually chipping away at superfluities. It doesnt have to be done all at once.

Each step will bring greater freedom. Autonomy will increase. Financial options will increase. Insecurity will slowly abate. Confidence and independence will grow. You'll need to work fewer hours.

Vouluntary simplicity is liberating. But dont stop there... go a step further. Let go of shame and envy. Follow Kerouac's advice, "Be in love with yr life". Get drunk on sunsets.... bathe in the winter rain. Be rich in love, rich in friendship, rich in experiences. Run, dance, play, read, write, breathe, observe.

"Cultivate poverty like an herb......"

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