"In short, I am convinced, both by faith and experience, that to maintain one's self on this earth is not a hardship but a pastime, if we will live simply and wisely; It is not necessary that a man should earn his living by the sweat of his brow, unless he sweats easier than I do."
That is, perhaps, my favorite quote from Thoreau (which is why its on the Hobopoet banner, of course). What I love is not only Thoreau's sane observation, but the grin with which he delivers it. Thoreau reversed our modern mental disease... he held contempt for the rich and ridiculous.
He saw the futility of chasing society's bangles.... noticed how many minds and lives were wasted by the ridiculous pursuit of social "status". Things have gotten much crazier since his time. And while I do feel despair and anger at times, increasingly I find myself laughing.
What I find funniest is the way everyone is sweating, sweating, sweating to maintain themself on this earth. Why do they make it so damn hard on themselves? Why do they buy 100,000 dollar houses? 200,000? More? (The AVERAGE price for a house in SF is 700,000 dollars!!!). Why do they spend 10,000 dollars for a car (or more)?
They then must work their asses off to keep this shit. Husband and wife both must work, so the kids are thoroughly neglected. The bulk of their waking hours are spent preparing for work, commuting to/from work, and at work. The typical American gets two weeks of vacation a year! All my "normal" relatives complain of overwork. They seem frazzled.
It doesnt have to be this hard. While I now "work",... I work only 20 hours a week. My "commute" is a five minute walk to school. I consider my apartment expensive, but for SF its quite cheap. Like Thoreau, I say this not to brag but to encourage other people. Its possible to have plenty of time and money. Its possible for life to be a pasttime, not a long hard slog.
I have a three day weekend. On the other four days, I average 5 hours a day. And since my needs are few, I can be picky about the kind of place I work. I actually love what I do (though I wouldnt want to do it more than 20 hours a week).
Mine is only one example. There are countless paths to ease. Its possible to have plenty of time for art, children, fitness, fun, friends, community, sleep, and doing nothing.
Like many, Im frustrated with the direction this country has taken. It saddens me to see so many desperate, overworked, lonely, frustrated, unhealthy people. Their loss of dignity and autonomy angers me... for I remember well how it felt.
But Im not a pessimist. Im an unabashed optimist. For despite all the bullshit, its not only possible to live free--- its easy.
We are enslaved by "mind forged manacles", its true. But we also hold the key to freedom....
Let go of social conditioning. Dare to remember your highest aspirations (or set off in search of them).
There's no need to sweat.