Can you surrender your comforts?

Monday, May 7, 2018

Imagine, if you will, a life with only the very basics required to survive at a somewhat comfortable level. Food, water, a bed, a sink and tub or basin (or some access to clean running water), a toilet, some clothing, an emergency medical kit, and something for mental stimulation – this should ideally be something that does not depend upon other resources (as a computer depends upon electricity), so perhaps a book, or a pencil and sketchbook, or some sort of puzzle or board game. Maybe a deck of cards?

If you live in a semi-rural setting, you do not need electricity. You can make and light candles. One way to do this is by taking the fat from a deer and turning it into tallow, then molding it into a candle. You could also use that tallow as fuel for an oil lamp, but it has many additional uses, including protecting and weatherproofing your boots, clearing your skin of impurities and blisters, and it can also be used in food. You can also build a fire outside, which can be used for cooking. You do not need running tap water. You can gather water from a nearby source and purify it. “But what about the toilet?” you may ask. You can use a dry toilet.

I’d like to interrupt by making two points. Firstly, there are unfortunate social and political conditions that may make the aforementioned advice difficult for some, and impossible for others. Notice that I prefaced the above paragraph with the phrase “if you live in a semi-rural setting.” Yes, you have to get away from the cities in order to be self-sufficient and live a simpler life. Even then, it may be difficult to find land that you can actually legally live on. People who have their own property are more fortunate than those who don’t, and must suddenly make a transition. Ironically enough, it also takes having money to eventually get away from money (or at least the need for money). In the U.S., one must usually own a car to get out to a more bucolic setting, even if he or she can later ditch a vehicle after becoming self-sufficient. There may also be a lot of supply-purchasing and/or financial investment involved in transitioning to a simpler lifestyle.

Second, I fully recognize that I am someone who lives in an apartment, in a city, with electricity, Internet, and other luxuries. I’m not a hypocrite. I’m not suggesting that “getting rid of everything” and moving to the countryside is a workable plan. Rather, what this post is meant to do is to challenge people, to see whether they can get by with only relying upon themselves, and whether they can acquire skills and knowledge that at one point, truly were needed for survival. I want people to understand that they do not require the things they have. You do not need a smartphone. You do not need TV. You do not need a “smart refrigerator.” You do not need Starbucks, or the Apple store, or any of the other commodities that city people cling to like lifelines. I want more people to live their lives in full recognition that 90 percent of what they have is luxury, not necessity. And I want more people to challenge themselves to not become dependent upon that which does not promote their health, intellect, survival, abilities, or productivity.

One can look at modern society to see how crippled the average person is. Fast food means that people are losing the desire and – eventually, if not already – the ability to cook. Go back farther and realize that modern agriculture and the meat industry have destroyed our once-upon-a-time direct relationship with food. Our knowledge of planting, tending, and harvesting crops is long gone. Hunting still exists in rural areas, but privileged, middle-class city people condemn it as if it’s some sort of unnatural act. Fishing, too, persists in the countryside (and even in some of suburbia), but at one time it was a crucial task for someone to get food, not a “sport.”

By the way, does anyone remember the Farmer’s Almanac? I thought not. Though I believe it still exists in some online form, back in the 1700s it was incredibly important. From weather forecasts to phases of the moon, garden planning, and expected morning frost predictions, this was basically the Bible to farmers. It still is to some, but with the hunter-gatherer lifestyle far behind in our rearview window, the majority of the population shuffles along with blissful ignorance, even though they depend upon farming in order to live! Never before has society been so divorced from resources so intrinsic to our survival. And that’s just what “the system” wants.

It’s not wrong to enjoy modern luxuries, but it is wrong to let them take over our brains, robbing us of our knowledge, because this technology won’t last forever, and at some point, we may need to fight for survival again. I’m not telling you to become a survivalist or a prepper – I have no plans to do anything of the sort. Just be armed and ready. And when I say “armed,” I mean that you should arm yourself with knowledge. That is more powerful than any physical weapon, and as the saying goes, the only knowledge that can hurt you is the knowledge you don’t have.

So, tell me – can you tell the time of day without a clock? Can you follow directions without Google Maps? Can you purchase food without Amazon? Can you get around without Uber? Can you leave your house confidently without your cellphone? Can you make your own candles if there’s a power outage? Can you determine which plants are poisonous and which are safe to eat? So on and so forth. But these are questions you may be forced to answer someday. Better, I think, to ponder them now, while we have luxuries. Luxuries with which we can learn new things. The Internet can be an excellent tool to discover how to do any of the things I have mentioned above. Use it wisely. Not for meme-posting and arguments.

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