instant gramming

November 1, 2007

raison d'etre

"Where should we go in search of the good life? We were not seeking to escape. Quite the contrary, we wanted to find a way in which we could put more into life and get more out of it. We were... looking for an opportunity to take on more worth-while responsibilities. The chance to help, improve and rebuild was more than an opportunity...
"We were seeking an affirmation,--a way of conducting ourselves, of looking at the world and taking part in its activities that would provide at least a minimum of those values which we considered a part of the good life. As we saw it, such values must include: simplicity, freedom from anxiety or tension [serenity], an opportunity to be useful [utility] and to live harmoniously..." (Helen and Scott Nearing, Living the Good Life)

I read this autobiography near the end of high school at a time when I was forced to make a decision about my future for which I wasn't ready. That is to say I didn't understand what college would have in store for me, if anything, and I was learning profound things about life that I understood wouldn't be learned in an expensive classroom. Digging a little deeper here I'll share that my life, at this point, was reformed through my exposure to music of subcultures pitted against mainstream American society. I had turned to "punk rock" to satisfy my need to be noticed, get loud (figuratively and literally), assert my independence, and most importantly have fun. Over time, I listened intensely to new bands of subgenres of the broader "punk" label. Apathy, cynicism, and mindless anthems of rebellion were replaced by political, social, and economic tirades fueled by wordly injustices including ones environmental. I was being inspired by a very real "peace punk" movement that was underground (i.e. remote from the eyes of the mainstream media), and it really captured and fired up my heart.
To make a longer story short, I was being exposed to some ideas that are so far removed from what I was being fed by my school, mainly--the political, social, and environmental impacts of food, diet, work, and the interrelated values that connect them. (Vegetarianism and veganism are HUGE movements connected to underground punk.) Some bands and other punk literature were highlighting bigger ideas like gardening, reflecting on land ownership and "farming" (in an alternative or non-conventional sense), and communal social living. My mind was being blown away. I started using school projects as an opportunity to learn about these ideas. Junior year I did an "author report" on Wendell Berry--I'll never remember how or why I stumbled on to this hugely inspirational and eloquent writer. I do credit him largely with inspiring the love, understanding, and respect for farming and gardening that I now have. He also helped to reconcile my confusion and growing concerns about the conflict between agriculture and nature. At some point within the following year I picked up Helen and Scott Nearing's book "Living the Good Life"--a sort of handbook/manifesto about moving from New York City to Vermont to live a completely self-sufficient and satisfying life. Moving on, I connected my fascination with this book with my new desire to live at Denison University's Homestead, of which I knew nothing but it's premise of communal living in the woods, where cabins were heated and food was cooked with wood chopped by its residents, bonfires and music were abundant, and farm animals were periodically kept. This was an opportunity to attend a college and, more importantly, learn about a lifestyle I was beginning to idealize. (Note: I came to learn there are hundreds of successful intentional communities around the 'States, welcoming to new residents; fortunatley, this was realized after I was established in college.)
Ok, that covers a lot of my journey to this point: recently deployed from college, working a very good job, now married, and settling into a house we own (Thanks to the tremendous support from our family). My motivation to move into a house was the opportunity to start establishing, or expanding my "good life." This includes the chance to grow vegetables, to landscape in an ecologically-sound way, to have spaces that would permit and inspire art (and music and literature) production and to prepare good and wholesome food. Also, this is to provide a space to host family and friends--something I/we have never had an opportunity to do...
The term "Good Life" has become loaded with all the values and principles that I, at any one time, believe are essential to living well and being happy. I suppose the values and principles will always be in flux, but at the end of the day, one's happiness is the measuring device. If you're not happy about something, what does that say about the way you are living? What can you change or do to solve your problem?

1 comment:

  1. I just found your blog from your recent post about Pacing the Panic Room, and figured I would go and read your first post because things look interesting here. I have to say, I am really glad I noticed the link and decided to read. Looking forward to it.