The Simple Life

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Seems as though there is a nostalgia in this country for a simple life and presumably an easier life.  There are shows upon shows following people that have gone off the grid (not really off per se many still use computers and wi fi) instead living off the land and surviving on local resources.  These often color characters claim their life to be much better as they are self supportive and out of the consumer driven paradigm.

 

Ultimately who is happier?  The person enduring frigid temperatures with no modern source of heat, no indoor plumbing and constant threat of predator animals? Or the person in a climate controlled home, a modern automobile, all kinds of creature comforts but a stressful means to obtain and maintain all that "stuff?" I think we in totality are not sure.  After a stressful or mind blowing day in an office we wonder what it would be like to rise when we please, carry our days as we go, and not be forced into a never ending competitive rat race.  On the flip side that individual living in a hut with no running hot water must crave a hot shower on a cold winter day.

 

What lifestyle are we naturally meant to live?  Is our current way of life full of too much mental and emotional stress and too little physical activity, becoming our downfall?  Is this why we seem to becoming angrier?  Our attempt to disband and ignore the natural way in which we should be living.

 

When I watch some of these shows (Alaska themed are my favorite) I see people very much living in the minute with no stress about what might occur two weeks from now.  Then I wonder about what its like to go get drinking water out of a frozen lake when its 30 below. Are they better cut off from society or do they pay a price for being so outside the norm? 

 

What is about human beings that makes them so driven awhile they crave a day in which they no longer feel as though they are on a non stop treadmill with the same nonstop loop flashing in front of their face?  Do we have progress, or is progress disguised as making life far too difficult, complicated, nonsensical and mean spirited?

Comments

Donna Added Oct 26, 2017 - 2:47pm
George,
No real answer for this one..It is my opinion, that if life could slow down, we would take it gratefully. At least some of us. I have been told, from relatives down South, come on down, things are much quieter and slower here. I don't live in a big city, and have no desire. To me the ultimate way of living would be- 
30 hour work week, time for family, and things one likes to do, i view this as a way for all to gain some private time, and to leave the day's worries behind.
I do not think any store should be open on a Holiday. We have taken all away from being families, for that damn dollar!
I have a friend who sold all he had and moved to Alaska.He is the happiest he has ever been and also the healthiest. No stress like we have his words.He said think of the old day's when farmers started early, and ended the day at an early point. This is how he lives, and would never come back. Said carrying water, is nothing like dealing with Wall Street scum! Can't say i would disagree..
Donna Added Oct 26, 2017 - 3:04pm
George,
I have only the computer at work. Phone is a tracfone, nothing smart..or expensive..no plan. i have to add minutes, so if i have the cash,i can if not, no phone that week..
No cable TV, no Internet, i bake home made cookies and such,we fish,hunt,plant gardens..I try to live as simple as possible. By choice..I find no need for all the fancy stuff, if regular things work the same..
Do you think simpler is better?
Jeff Michka Added Oct 26, 2017 - 7:07pm
Are they better cut off from society or do they pay a price for being so outside the norm?-You've never spent time in Alaska living rough and remote.  The world looks a whole lot better when you do get back to it.  Alaskans call lower 48 "Outside".  And they're right in doing so. You get along and stay alive because you must "fish,hunt,plant gardens"  to do it, as Donna does to "live simply."  You learn to can your own food.  You learn extreme self-reliance.  And learn not to whine.  Excrement occurs.
George N Romey Added Oct 26, 2017 - 7:36pm
Donna I think technology could have made life much better but we handed control over to a small elite. Yes simplicity is better. 
Katharine Otto Added Oct 26, 2017 - 8:54pm
George,
Different strokes for different folks.  There are in-between worlds, but the easiest way to tune the frenzy out is to turn off the TV.  
wsucram15 Added Oct 26, 2017 - 9:27pm
Just give me plumbing. I can do w/o the rest..If I have to go w/o everything..just give me that..I ll collect my own water, whatever.  Grow my own food, Kill for meat..etc. But just give me water.
I dont care about TV (well maybe GOT) other than that..oh well.
The computer is nice, but oh well.  People are waayyy cooler. I just got new neighbors and they invited everyone to a costume party..so they are cool.
I love Alaska..but dont think I could live there full time. But if I was able I would love it I think.
Jeff Jackson Added Oct 26, 2017 - 9:37pm
George, unfortunately, most of my work comes across the internet. It would be better to have things scheduled, but that is not how my jobs work, though it would be better. The other thing is that these people think that I do nothing but sit in front of my computer, ready to work or take assignments. I would have better things to do, but I'd be a lot poorer.
Lynn Johnson Added Oct 26, 2017 - 11:39pm
I like the post George and the questions that you raise concerning the rat race and the simpler life.
 
I can't speak to the level of simplification you refer to... but eight years ago I did drastically simplify my life.  To date, it was the best decision I have ever made.
 
Forgive my rant... I'm obviously not a man of few words...
 
I moved to Houston in 1989 and worked as an IT professional for 20 years.  I worked for the big boys (Enron, Koch, Merrill Lynch); fought the crazy traffic and long commute; tolerated the crazy people... and made good money.  And don't get me wrong, it was a valuable experience and I don't regret it.  For me, at that time, it was the right decision.
 
Then in 2009 my employer told me they were moving my job to India and offered me a bonus if I would train the guy who would be doing my job over there.  Within 24 hours I decided I had had enough.  I put my house up for sale, agreed to train my replacement for the bonus and became determined to move back to my small home town (population 5K).
 
My house sold (in a down market) within a week or so of my last day at work.  I took a three-month vacation camping and fishing on the Sabine River.  Just as I was starting to look for employment in nearby larger towns... my future employer called me; a small company in my home town that had just grown large enough to need a full-time IT guy.  I became their IT Manager, IT Department, and IT grunt.  This was the first time I worked for a small company; and I must say the difference is night and day.  It is refreshing to work for genuine, honest people for a change.
 
Now part of this decision involved... I made half the money; but my expenses were minimal; and my commute was about 15 minutes (compared to an hour or two before).
 
But what about the roughing it?  I renovated an old house (built in the 1930s) at the back of about 50 acres I owned.  It's small, about 1000 sq ft.  The decor could only be described as rustic.  The entire outside of the house is covered in rusty tin (that I got for free off an old chicken house).  Much of the inside is similarly decorated.  It has no central air/heat.  But this being East Texas, I do have a couple of window units (air conditioners) for a couple of rooms.  Heat is generated by an old wood burning stove in the corner of the main living area.  I built a platform near one of my windows so I can stack and retrieve fire wood from there.  Yes, I have electricity which goes out regularly (if the wind blows); and a few years ago, I got Internet (via a cell phone system) that runs at a whopping 3.5 MBps (that's very slow).
 
My home isn't in the middle of nowhere, but it's about as close as you can get in these parts.  I can walk out of any door and fire a gun in any direction and not worry about hitting a neighbor.  I have to shoot at coyotes every now and then when they start to lose their fear of my five dogs.  I would guess that about a quarter of the meat I eat, I kill myself (squirrels, pigs, deer, fish).  My brother is a local farmer so I eat pretty good in the vegetable department also.  I'm also very much closer and available to my aging parents.
 
It was eight years ago that I gave up that non-stop treadmill for a much simpler life, though I probably spit the difference as opposed to going completely off the grid.  I am truly blessed for it.
 
Thanks for the opportunity to share my experience.
 
opher goodwin Added Oct 27, 2017 - 3:29am
George - that was the old Hippy dream - to drop out of the capitalist warmongering rat-race and live off the land - simply and easily. It didn't quite work out though.
George N Romey Added Oct 27, 2017 - 8:22am
Sounds like Lynn found nirvana.
Dino Manalis Added Oct 27, 2017 - 9:27am
There needs to be a balance, life should be as simple as possible without abandoning our way of life.  That's easier said than done, but we have to understand we're human beings and life is temporary and precious.  People have to choose on their own what they want and how to live their lives.
Even A Broken Clock Added Oct 27, 2017 - 10:19am
One of the themes I see on articles on Writerbeat comes from arguing whether the Scandinavian system of strengthened safety net (many would say socialism) is a better way to live. My perception is that the lifestyle afforded by the Scandinavian countries is more laid back, and less competitive. So, you don't have the money to buy the latest things or buy a huge stand-alone manse. But look at what you gain by taking your foot off of the accelerator just a bit.
 
There are many who decry the perceived loss of incentive in this type of system. They feel that any money taken through taxation represents a loss of personal freedom. Again, my perception is that these higher taxed countries actually have more freedom since the residents are not as insecure in their pursuit of more and more. Lynn kind of reflects that perspective down in south east Texas with his deliberate slowing down of lifestyle.
Jeffry Gilbert Added Oct 27, 2017 - 5:33pm
My biggest worry every day is whether to take the motorcycle or the boat to go get my bowl bamee moosap hang. 
Jeff Michka Added Oct 27, 2017 - 8:27pm
I love Alaska..but dont think I could live there full time. But if I was able I would love it I think.-Depends, a great deal, on "where" in Alaska.  Prince Edward Island was extremely nice to live on.  Fortunately, when I was up there, we still lived on the farm, so it was, initially, "changing locales" more than anything.  Then, it got interesting.  What makes you think you can't live there?  Think you have the skills.
Jeffry Gilbert Added Oct 27, 2017 - 11:34pm
What makes you think you can't live there? 
 
I can't speak for him but it's too damn cold. Then again, IMO, anything above 15° latitude is. I never heard of anyone dying of heat bite. 
 
Jeffry Gilbert Added Oct 28, 2017 - 12:57am
Even George at less than 25° N is putting on an extra comforter several nights a year. 
Neil Lock Added Oct 28, 2017 - 4:51am
High pressure and a degree of prosperity, or low pressure and relative poverty? An interesting question, George.
 
Personally, I prefer a bit of both. I've spent times when I've been working my guts out for years on end, then when I've amassed enough money I go and do something completely different. (Back in 1989, for example, I went coast-to-coast across North America on a bicycle).
 
And I agree with Lynn Johnson that working with or for small companies is a much better experience than working with or for big ones.
George N Romey Added Oct 28, 2017 - 8:51am
If people are finically secure it leads to a better quality of life. Ask anyone and they are likely to tell you the greatest stress is financial stress.
 
The Scandinavian countries have higher taxes but they getting more for their money. Spending better benefits their people versus the US wasting trillions each year on military and covert operations. 
Jeff Michka Added Oct 28, 2017 - 4:54pm
What makes you think you can't live there? -Actually, that was to wsucram15.  Yeah, it gets cold in Alaska and a lot of other places.  And it was cold and snow most of the time I was there.  Noticed it going to and from the job sites.  Snow mobiles aren't luxury travel with heated areas...LOL. 
Utpal Patel Added Oct 30, 2017 - 8:20am
I can think of no greater stress than the stress of survival. Knowing that if you don’t hunt enough or cut down enough wood, you may starve or freeze to death must be an awful weight. In addition, I imagine the people who live in Alaska are also just as involved in their own rat race as the people who live in New York. Or did you think all snowshoes are the same?
opher goodwin Added Oct 30, 2017 - 8:37am
I agree with Neil - some stress and urgency is good. It is when it gets out of control that things go haywire. You need to be in control of your stress.
Jeff Michka Added Oct 30, 2017 - 6:34pm
Utpal sez: I imagine the people who live in Alaska are also just as involved in their own rat race as the people who live in New York.-Yeah, haul the crabpots, smoke the fish and can it.  Harvest garden and preserve...high stress, but needs to be done.  The stress is knowing how it can work out if you don't do it, not in doing it.
Dave Volek Added Oct 31, 2017 - 1:32pm
A couple of commentators brought up the high taxes of the Scandinavian countries providing a more relaxed lifestyle.
 
I thought of a scientific experiment I read about many years ago. Two mice were put into two cages with the same constants: i.e. food, water, temperature, cage size, etc. One cage was put in a room by itself. The other cage was put in a similar room but there was a cat in the room. Of course the cat spent much of its day trying to figure out how to get the mouse. Even though the mouse was never in danger from the cat, having the cat lurking and glaring caused it enough stress that it never lived as long as the mouse in isolation.
 
Maybe high taxes are helping to keep the cat away!
Jeff Michka Added Nov 7, 2017 - 4:25pm
Prince Geo R sez: Sounds like Lynn found nirvana.-Got a feeling ol Bully boy Lynn found somewhere isolated enough he can beat his wife and kids without fear of anyone turning him in.  That's the one thing the Trumpist neighbor forgot when he smacked his wife publicly.  Someone did the right thing and turned him in.

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