Today’s article is the final one in this few weeks long series on What Would a Low Density Lifestyle World Look Like?
It’s a video montage I put together in celebration of the spirit of the upcoming holidays.
It’s an homage to peace, love, trust, hope, belief, and the knowledge that we can make this a better world, a peaceful, sane, healthy and happy world, a Low Density Lifestyle world.
I hope you enjoy the video, and you find it inspiring.
I’ll be on hiatus for the holidays until Jan. 5, 2010, so until then, be well! See you next time.
I wish you a happy, healthy, joyous and Low Density Lifestyle holiday season.
I’ve written articles during this series on peace and war being over, on being bold, on listening to your heart and following your creative pulse, on working together to make this a better world, and on people who are helping to make this a better world.
Ultimately, a Low Density Lifestyle World is one in which our heart and soul resonate with the poetic lyricism that fuels the universe.
When we feel lighter of body, mind and spirit, that is when we are living a Low Density Lifestyle; and when we feel lighter, we are truly poetry in motion.
With that being said, today’s article is about poetry and is guest written by Susan Jefts.
Susan Jefts, MS, is a poet who lives in Saratoga Springs, NY. She runs writing groups in therapeutic and community settings using poetry as a tool for exploring life issues and healing.
Susan teaches writing and advises students for Empire State College and has had her poetry published in several journals and books regionally and throughout the country, including Big City Lit, Parnassus Literary Journal, The Hudson River Anthology and Metroland, among others.
Her website is www.saratogapoetryroom.com.
Meeting a Poem
First, something catches. The movement of a word on your tongue or a spark from its flight through your throat. Often it’s not the one you’d expect, not what you were thinking about or where you were going that day. But there it is, like beautiful music or a call from a cherished friend. And so you listen.
To know what a poem is about for you, look to the images that most speak to you, the ones that linger in your ear or on your tongue, or hover in your soul. It is after all images that feed the soul. And it is in metaphor, the heart of poetry, where psyche (soul) and soma (body) meet. Metaphor comes from a Greek word meaning to transport or carry across. We can be transported by poetry, if we are willing, to new levels of experience and insight, places where the soul and spirit are more closely involved.
The following poem How it is by Peter Everwine, is one I’ve had in my favorite poem folder for years. I knew upon first reading, that this poem said far more than its ten short lines and that I would return to it again and again. I find it an especially rich antidote for a busy life, as it speaks to the reader of what returning means, of what actually being in our life means.
This is how it is —
One turns away
and walks out into the evening.
There is a white horse on the prairie, or a river
that slips away among dark rocks.
One speaks, or is about to speak,
not that it matters.
What matters is this —
It is evening.
I have been away a long time.
There is a strong presence from the start of the poem of something beyond words and feeling. And a strong sense of seeing, a kind that only evening allows, as it is a time of day for nuance, both visually and emotionally. What is described is a white horse on the prairie. But right next to that is a river “that slips away among dark rocks.” Right away, we are presented with contrasting images and a sense of paradox, with the first image suggesting stillness and permanence and the second one, movement and impermanence.
Soon we know we are not in a world of ordinary language but it feels very real; the language is open and encompassing, and we are pulled into its richness and wholeness. Good poetry is like that; it allows room for everything. And as in many poems, there is more going on here than first meets the eye. Listen for what is going on for you. Is it the image of the white horse that speaks to you, the dark rocks, or the river that slips away? Perhaps it is the “turning away,” or a subtle feeling of the poem that speaks to you. What is it about that image? Pay attention to the ones that speak to you, as they are likely speaking to your soul.
While there may be a sense of leave taking in the poem, there is also a sense of opening to new awareness. The speaker at first appears to be turning away from something and finding escape or solace in nature. But soon we see that he is really returning. Re-turning to a kind of purity, to something beyond words and images. Returning to what is essential.
And in the midst of all this turning, there is a sense of embracing and of being embraced. “I have been away a long time,” he says. We almost wonder and know, both at the same time where he has been and what he is returning to. The specifics of those places will vary for each of us, as will the messages they carry. Where have you been, and what are you returning to?
In the previous article in this series on What Would a Low Density Lifestyle World Look Like?, I discussed 50 People Who Are Changing the World.
Today I will discuss another person who is changing the world, and making it more sane and peaceful. He wasn’t on the list, because he deserves his own article.
He is Greg Mortenson, author of the 2007 bestseller Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission To Promote Peace…One School At A Time, and the recently released sequel, Stones Into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Mortenson is the co-founder and director of the non-profit Central Asia Institute, and founder of the educational charity Pennies For Peace. He’s a humanitarian, international peacemaker, and former mountain climber from Bozeman, Montana.
The mission of the Central Asia Institute is to promote education and literacy, especially for girls, in remote mountain regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
He was a finalist for the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, and in March 2009 received Pakistan’s highest civilian award, the Sitara-e-Paskistan (The Star of Pakistan), in recognition of what he’s done.
What exactly has Greg Mortenson done? To answer that question, let’s first look at how he got to where he is now.
In 1992, Greg’s younger sister Christa passed away due to epilepsy.
In 1993, to honor his deceased sister’s memory, Mortenson went to climb K2, the world’s second highest mountain, in northern Pakistan. After more than 70 days on the mountain, Mortenson and three other climbers completed a life-saving rescue of a fifth climber that took more than 75 hours. The time and energy devoted to this rescue prevented him from attempting to reach the summit.
After the rescue, he began his descent of the mountain and became weak and exhausted. He took a wrong turn along the way and ended up in Korphe, a small village where he was cared for by the villagers while he recovered.
Once Mortenson’s health was restored, he felt a debt to the remote community for their compassion, and said he would build a school for the village. After a frustrating time trying to raise money, Mortenson convinced Jean Hoerni, a Silicon Valley pioneer, to found the Central Asia Institute, with Mortenson as the Executive Director.
The Institute began its work, yet over the years, in the process of building schools, Mortenson has survived an eight-day armed 1996 kidnapping in the tribal areas of Waziristan, in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province; escaped a 2003 firefight between Afghan opium warlords; endured two fatwas by angry Islamic clerics for educating girls; and received hate mail and threats from fellow Americans for helping educate Muslim children.
Mortenson believes that education and literacy for girls globally is the most important investment all countries can make to create stability, bring socio-economic reform, decrease infant mortality, decrease the population explosion, and improve health, hygiene, and sanitation standards globally.
Mortenson believes that fighting terrorism only perpetuates a cycle of violence, and that there should be a global priority to promote peace through education and literacy, with an emphasis on girls’ education.
“You can drop bombs, hand out condoms, build roads or put in electricity, but unless the girls are educated, a society won’t change,” Mortenson says. Because of community buy-in, which involves getting villages to donate free land, subsidized or free labor, free wood and resources, the schools have local support and have been able to avoid retribution by the Taliban or other groups opposed to girls’ education.
As of October 2009, Central Asia Institute has established over 131 schools in rural Afghanistan and Pakistan, which provide education to 54,000 students, including over 44,000 girls. Pennies for Peace is a program Mortenson launched to involve American school-children in fund-raising efforts for the schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
You can hear Greg Mortenson explain his work in the above video, and as you listen you will see why he truly is helping to create a Low Density Lifestyle world.
To learn more about his work, check out his website Three Cups of Tea.
Over the last few days during this series on What Would a Low Density Lifestyle World Look Like?, I’ve been discussing war, peace, and making the world a better place.
I said how we’re all in this together, so ultimately, it’s up to all of us to help make this a more livable, lovable and sane world.
There are many people who have made it their mission to make this world a better place, a Low Density Lifestyle kind of world. In this article you can learn about 50 of them. Maybe one day your name will be on the list.
This list and article is from the Utne Reader.
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. On paper and in person his visage exudes optimism, righteous ambition, and immeasurable humility. Which is why, as we searched for an iconic figure to represent this, our second annual list of visionaries, his name immediately jumped to mind. That’s because the visionaries we were drawn to made the cut not for being revolutionary inventors, innovative environmentalists, vociferous outcasts, or intrepid reformers—although you’ll find all of these enviable character types on the following pages—but for the unwavering, inexhaustible sense of purpose they bring to their work.
Labors of peace, love, and justice are rarely recognized by our celebrity-obsessed media, and by extension most of us. Quiet resolve does not fill tents at the circus. Principle doesn’t make for a sexy photo. Selflessness, unless it is exhibited by heroes in the heat of a crisis, is often presented as weakness. Yet it is only the strongest among us who can stay true to a vision.
This section is a tribute to that resolve. Here’s hoping it inspires your dreams.
This poet isn’t content with words on a page—he prefers to work under mind-bending constraints that truly stretch his linguistic limits.
In his “Edge of Sports” column and other multimedia outlets, Zirin brings a progressive eye to the world of athletics. He’s the thinking fan’s sportswriter, using our various fields of battle as a sociological lens.
Noah Baker Merrill
Cofounder, Direct Aid Iraq
This humanitarian activist won’t let Americans forget Iraq. Even (and especially) as the country and its people fade from U.S. headlines, Baker Merrill builds bridges of friendship and restitution.
Founder, International Center for AIDS Care and Treatment Programs
When Wafaa El-Sadr first encountered people suffering from AIDS in 1982, there were fewer than 5,000 known cases of the disease. In just a few years, the annual rate of infection would hit 130,000. If there was a ground floor for the epidemic, El-Sadr was on it.
Sharma traveled a broad swath of the Islamic world to film A Jihad for Love, a first-of-its-kind documentary about gay and lesbian Muslims who are struggling to reconcile their faith with their sexuality.
Cofounder, Cornucopia Institute
When you buy organic, you want to trust the label. Kastel and his small but dogged Cornucopia crew make sure that organic food producers are walking their talk by snooping around their barnyards and their balance sheets.
Director, MindFreedom International
People who suffer from mental and emotional problems often have few personal advocates, let alone political or cultural influence. Oaks’ group, MindFreedom International, stands up for them by campaigning against forced medication, abuse of rights, and the media biases that really get these “psychiatric survivors” down.
Maya Enista wants to create an AARP for the millennial generation, helping people people see millennials as having more value than just helping with your social networking.
This indie book publishing icon is turning the entire industry on its head in his bold new venture. And guess what—you, dear readers, are the stars of the show.
Founder, The Open Planning Project
The goal of urban planning should be to serve people, not machines, and Gorton’s leading the charge to inspire people to kick automobile dependency and take back the streets!
Author, Stuffed and Starved
In Stuffed and Starved, Patel smartly unpacked the myriad problems with our corporate agriculture and food system, but his interests—and opinions—go even broader in his new book, The Value of Nothing: His sharp social critique extends to economic justice issues like class, wealth, and poverty.
American Indian Education Advocate
As part of Montana’s groundbreaking initiative, Cajune provides educators with the tools they need to close the cultural awareness chasm and bring American Indian histories to the masses.
Tyrone Boucher and Dean Spade
This whip-smart, social-justice-minded pair has created a welcoming forum for the most taboo of subjects: wealth, class, and what it feels like, day-to-day, to resist capitalism.
Executive Director, Science Commons
This philosopher-turned-engineer heads up Science Commons, a group that works to spur innovation and discovery by making scientific research and resources easier to share.
Dasgupta saw what gross domestic product (GDP) wasn’t measuring—the state of a country’s environmental resources, education, and human welfare—so he came up with a new system. And his “inclusive wealth” concept is starting to catch on.
Cofounder and Executive Director, World Access for the Blind
By teaching FlashSonar navigation and emphasizing self-direction, this nonprofit’s bold approach to managing blindness proves there are no limits to what can be done without sight.
Julia “Judy” Bonds
Codirector, Coal River Mountain Watch
Bonds is a matriarch to the movement against mountaintop removal, the coal mining practice that is literally flattening parts of Appalachia. In her work with Coal River Mountain Watch, she engages in direct activism against “King Coal” and teaches others how to do the same.
Ledbetter’s record label has been resurrecting 78s and rereleasing the work of unheralded American folk, blues, and jazz musicians since 2003.
Since he lost his arm serving in Iraq, this graduate student and research assistant hopes to revolutionize the prosthetics industry by bringing open source design to the masses.
Program Leader, Global Health Initiative
Kristian Olson, program leader of the Global Health Initiative (GHI), fights neonatal death in low-income areas of the world using low-cost resuscitators and incubators made from old car parts.
A figurehead for “copyfighters” everywhere, Doctorow is on a crusade against a corporate monopoly on patent law. He thinks replication feeds a culture of creativity and might even be programmed into our DNA; it should be encouraged, not criminalized.
Documentary Photographer and Journalist
Bacon has made a life of documenting the important, inspiring struggles that rarely make the news, bringing to life the stories of undocumented workers, labor activists, and foreclosed homeowners.
Patricia van Nispen tot Sevenaer
Executive Director, ILA Microjustice for All
Billions of people around the globe lack basic legal protection and representation. Van Nispen tot Sevenaer’s innovative Microjustice model is turning the tide, one person at a time.
Author, Ties That Bind
In Ties That Bind (see review, p. 91), this lesbian social critic urges progressives to confront homophobia within their families. Only then will we be as gay-friendly as we think we are.
Author, The Case for Animal Rights
The philosophical leader of the animal rights movement helped construct a legal framework around the issue—and whatever your stand, he’ll make you rethink it.
Emeritus Professor, Stanford University
According to this French-born intellectual’s mimetic theory, imitation is the root of human culture. More Americans ought to mimic the Europeans who rightly celebrate Girard as a brilliant, original thinker.
Disabled people attract stares—and this social critic posits that the attention sometimes transforms a would-be stigma into empowerment.
Founder and CEO, Growing Power
This MacArthur genius’s nonprofit Growing Power is pioneering ways to feed fresh food to those who live in the “food deserts” of our inner cities.
The mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, put the city on the map for its innovative transportation policy. Now he’s a consultant, and his big ideas about livable cities are in demand.
This social critic’s “Target Women” segments on Current TV do the nearly impossible: They make feminist critiques informative and darkly funny. For skewering society’s hang-ups and mocking celebrity culture, she deserves a reward—like, say, equal treatment.
Founder, charity: water
Harrison is a former nightclub owner and party hound who decided to do something for others. His group charity: water has provided clean water to more than half a million people in Africa, Asia, and Central America.
Author, Murder in the Name of Honor
As a journalist, Husseini shed light on honor killings in her native Jordan. As an activist, she works to end them.
Founder, Eyak Preservation Council
A native Eyak Athabaskan from Alaska, Lankard became an environmental activist after the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Standing up to opponents, some from his own community, he’s a brave and powerful voice among greens.
Founder, Tree Project
Taking seeds from trees that survived the Hiroshima atomic bomb blast, this artist-cum-entrepreneur has encouraged people to plant them all over the world. By creating beauty from devastation, the creator cultivates peace.
Founding Member, FEMRITE
The first female Ugandan author awarded a grant from the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program, the accomplished author of Waiting was on the ground floor of this dynamic association for indigenous female writers.
Founder, African Women’s Health Center
During her ob/gyn residency, the Sudanese native and MacArthur genius developed a center for African women who have been circumcised. She continues to run that reproductive health care organization in Boston.
Executive Director, Interfaith Worker Justice
A longtime spiritual activist, the author of Wage Theft in America is on a crusade to mobilize people of faith in the battle over fair pay, benefits, and equal treatment for low-wage workers.
Founder, Green Map Systems
By highlighting a community’s green features—compost drop sites, green space, community gardens—Brawer’s maps become tools for environmental and community activists, pointing the way to sustainability.
Founder, Alive in Baghdad
This videographer, who first traveled to Iraq in 2005, collaborates with local journalists to document daily life under siege. Conley has since expanded his “brand” to Syria and Mexico.
As the founder of SunEdison, Shah pioneered a new finance model for solar power. He’s now set his sights “beyond the carbon economy” by heading a climate-change initiative, the Carbon War Room.
The London-based Dwell contributor and inventor continues to improve on her LooWatt, a portable, green toilet that captures odor and turns waste into fuel.
Alexis Pauline Gumbs
The radical feminist and artist is gearing up for A Queer Black MobileHomeComing, a traveling “intergenerational community documentation and education project” that challenges our culture’s heteronormativity.
Tiny a.k.a. Lisa Gray-Garcia
Cofounder, POOR magazine
Tapping her life experiences in the Bay Area, this self-proclaimed “poverty scholar” uses a grassroots magazine—as well as her performance art project welfareQUEENS—to tell those street stories the mainstream rarely cares to hear.
Founder, Balmori Associates
This architect built a reputation designing green roofs, which she calls the “fifth facade” of buildings. Balmori’s visions keep growing more ambitious, melding futurism with sustainability.
Cofounder, Internet Archive
Thanks to this digital librarian’s nonprofit, researchers, historians, and scholars have permanent access to reams of essential historical data. And he’s just getting started.
Founder, Institute for the Future of the Book
A digital pioneer who introduced the CD-ROM, Stein is now turning his attention to the ways social networking can turn publishing into an interactive give-and-take between readers and authors.
This South Asian American entrepreneur created an online media company responsible for five weekly e-magazines that spotlight young professionals of color making their mark.
Environmental Justice Advocate
One of the first activists to insert race and class into the environmental debate, this too-often underappreciated author has written 15 essential books, including Race, Place, and Environmental Justice After Hurricane Katrina.
Author, Can’t Stop Won’t Stop
No writer covers the intersection of hip-hop and politics better than Chang—and he’s got the Obama administration’s ear regarding U.S. arts policy.
We all know which of these two is true.
But we can change the world and make it a better place – a peaceful, sane, healthy, happy, fair world. A Low Density Lifestyle world.
Together we can change the world, because we’re all in this together, as the above video, which will touch your heart, your mind, and your soul, shows.
All it takes is empathy, hope, looking beyond, thinking positive, valuing truth, speaking up, listening, saying what you mean and meaning what you say, challenging the impossible, and a host of other things.
Perhaps I’m being an optimist. But if you don’t have optimism, what do you have? After all, it’s the optimists who will change the world, because they believe it can be done.
Watch the video to learn more. And then decide which of these you put into practice on a daily basis.
In yesterday’s article during this series on What Would a Low Density Lifestyle World Look Like?, I showed the video of John Lennon’s well-known holiday anthem, Happy Xmas/War is Over.
I said how the song, when it came out in 1971, was seen as radical and the work of a notorious peace activist, but now is sung far and wide by all kinds of musicians.
And to prove my point, in yesterday’s article were versions by Celine Dion, Melissa Etheridge, Tom Jones, the Three Tenors, and U2.
Which means the song is now a fully accepted and loved part of the holiday season. As well it should, since it is a hymn to peace – and isn’t that what the holiday spirit is about?
But what if war isn’t over? (I know, I know, just look around us – it goes without saying.)
That’s the point of the above video, courtesy of Good Magazine.
So I invite you to watch it and to understand that is not the vision of the world we want to live in. That’s the vision of a High Density Lifestyle world, and is certainly not what a Low Density Lifestyle World Would Look Like.
So let’s all resolve to do better. Before it’s too late.
A little more than 29 years ago, on Dec. 8, 1980, John Lennon left us. I thought of him the other day when I was walking through a store and heard his song Happy Xmas/War is Over.
This is a song that when it came out in 1971 was branded as radical because it was written and sung by a notorious peace activist. Yet now, the song is heard every year at this time.
And that’s because it tells us of hope – about a world of peace, which is what the Xmas spirit is about, and also what a Low Density Lifestyle world is about. So now the song is a hymn that is heard every Xmas holiday season.
As well it should.
The only sad thing about the song is that it was written by a man who is no longer with us, a visionary who perceived what a Low Density Lifestyle world looked like, and articulated it very clearly.
Earlier in this series on what a Low Density Lifestyle world would look like, I told you about the work of Yoko Ono. She has been someone who has worked tirelessly for peace, for the cultivation of the imagination, and for the integration of the two, originally with her husband John Lennon, and then by herself.
Affirmation for Planet Earth
Yoko Ono Lennon
December 8, 2009
On the anniversary of the passing of my husband, John Lennon,
I would like you to share an affirmation with me.
Think it, say it, with firm belief,
knowing that we are all one.
In the name of truth, peace and love:
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Our planet is healthy and whole,
We, the people of Earth
See clearly, Hear clearly, Think clearly.
Make the right judgement, right decision and the right move
For the benefit of our planet and others.
We are now bathing in the light of Dawn,
Standing in the Heaven we have created together,
Sharing the Joy
With all Lives on Earth
And of the Universe,
As we are all one, united with infinite and eternal love.
For the highest good of all concerned, So be it.
With all my love,
yoko ono lennon
December 8, 2009
And two years ago, on Dec. 8, 2007, she wrote the following:
December 8, 2007
by Yoko Ono Lennon
27 years later, I still wish I could turn back the clock to the Summer of 1980.
I remember everything – sharing our morning coffee, walking in the park
together on a beautiful day, and seeing your hand stretched to mine –
holding it, reassuring me that I shouldn’t worry about anything because
our life was good.
I had no idea that life was about to teach me the toughest lesson of all.
I learned the intense pain of losing a loved one suddenly, without
warning, and without having the time for a final hug and the chance to
say, “I love you,” for the last time. The pain and shock of that sudden
loss is with me every moment of every day.
When I touched John’s side of our bed on the night of December 8th,
1980, I realized that it was still warm. That moment has haunted me for
the past 27 years – and will stay with me forever.
Even harder for me is watching what was taken away from our beautiful boy,
He lives in silent anger over not having his Dad, whom he loved so much,
around to share his life with. I know we are not alone. Our pain is one
shared by many other families who are suffering as the victims of
senseless violence. This pain has to stop.
Let’s not waste the lives of those we have lost. Let’s, together, make
the world a place of love and joy and not a place of fear and anger.
This day of John’s passing has become more and more important for so
many people around the world as the day to remember his message of Peace
and Love and to do what each of us can to work on healing this planet we
Let’s: Think Peace, Act Peace, and Spread Peace.
John worked for it all his life.
He said, “There’s no problems, only solutions.”
Remember, we are all together.
We can do it, we must.
I love you!
Yoko Ono Lennon
8 December 2007
Below, there are a series of videos just to show how popular John Lennon’s song has become. The first video is of Celine Dion singing the song; then Melissa Etheridge; then Tom Jones singing Happy Xmas at a concert at the Vatican; then the Three Tenors - Pavarotti, Domingo and Carreras – singing it in Vienna; and finally U2 singing an acoustic version in 1988 on TV on The Late, Late Show.
In a world in which people are stressed to the max, feel overwhelmed, and are caught up living a High Density Lifestyle existence; and in a world in which things seem topsy-turvy and what is wrong is right and what is right is wrong, voices of sanity are desperately needed.
That’s why we need people who live a Low Density Lifestyle to speak out and to be bold with their vision, because they are the voices of sanity, and the voices to lead us out of the wilderness.
And that’s why I’ve had this series on What Would a Low Density Lifestyle World Look Like? - to inspire the Low Density Lifestyle folks to help point the finger to the way to live a sane existence.
In the above video, you can see the actor Woody Harrelson’s poem Thoughts From Within set to music and images. In the poem he speaks simply, clearly and eloquently to help us understand how we’ve lost our way.
Woody is giving a Low Density Lifestyle perspective to a High Density Lifestyle world. Perspectives like these are voices from the wilderness, voices of clarity. They shine a light to help us see through the darkness of a High Density Lifestyle existence.
Woody Harrelson, best-known as Woody on the TV show Cheers, but also star of many well-known movies, including Indecent Proposal, Wag the Dog, and The Messenger, lives a Low Density Lifestyle. He’s a peace activist, a vegan – in the recent film Zombieland, when the script required him to eat a Twinkie, he replaced it with a vegan-faux Twinkie made from cornmeal – and in October 2009, he was conferred an honorary degree York University for his contributions in the fields of environmental education, sustainability, and activism.
I hope you enjoy the video and it inspires you to become a voice of sanity in a High Density Lifestyle World.
I continue on with this series What Would a Low Density Lifestyle World Look Like? with an interesting take on living a relaxed, very Low Density Lifestyle life, courtesy of English journalist Tom Hodgkinson.
This is an interview that comes courtesy of the website Good. Good is a collaboration of individuals, businesses and nonprofits pushing the world forward.
Tom Hodgkinson runs the website The Idler and is an advocate of the good life as the idle life. He thinks the way to happiness is to be a loafer.
Tom Hodgkinson’s books sometimes end up in bookstores’ self-help sections. That would make How to Be Idle and The Freedom Manifesto the only books to advocate dropping out of consumer society, ditching urban life, anarchy, bread baking, beer drinking, and generally living like it’s the Middle Ages. As co-founder and editor of The Idler magazine, Hodgkinson champions laziness, hedonism, thrift and a freewheeling DIY approach to life. Let him tell it, and it’s the key to a more ecologically sound future.
GOOD: You’re a known critic of consumer society, so tell us: what have you purchased yourself, lately?
Tom Hodgkinson: I try not to buy anything beyond beer, bacon, and books. Generally, though, I find that the older, the better. I did buy a painted pine bookcase recently from the local antique shop, which is very useful and beautiful.
Good: What’s your take on the global financial crisis?
T.H.: I am feeling very cheerful, to the point of smugness, about it. As someone who has no shares, no stocks, no bonds, no insurance policies, no pensions, and no money, I am feeling very safe. Money is for spending, not saving. I think average people should respond with great joy. At last, what businessmen used to call the “real world” has been exposed as imaginary. Perhaps what businessmen used to call a dream world—poetry, nature, God, the spirit, music, contemplation, books and good conversation—will now be seen as the “real world.”
Good: Just after the first major government bank bailouts were announced, you wrote that all that money would be better spent giving everyone an acre of land. What would we do with it?
T.H.: With just an acre of land a family of five or six can provide a huge amount of their food needs. You can keep animals and grow fruit and vegetables. This was the thinking behind Distributism, a political idea of the 1920s put about by Catholic intellectuals such as G. K. Chesterton. They saw a return to a medieval-style system where families combined smallholding with another source of income. Smallholding is enjoyable, useful, reconnects you with nature, is therapeutic, keeps you fit and healthy and is enormously satisfying. The quality of the produce is far higher than the products of the industrialized food system. You can also do more or less of it as circumstances change. A large garden in the city, or even a terrace, can be used to grow delicious food.
Good: Yes, you’ve written quite a bit in praise of the Middle Ages—in fact, you argue they were sort of a golden age of social justice and sustainability. Really? That’s not how most people think of them.
T.H.: We have been taught the negative version of the Middle Ages by the people who replaced them, the Puritans and Protestants. If you want to replace an existing system with your new system, then you need to besmirch the previous system. The idea we carry around in our minds of the Middle Ages is a ridiculous caricature. Just think about the beauty of the cathedrals—are they really a product of the Dark Ages? They outstrip the Empire State Building in terms of beauty by a million miles. The medieval economic system, interestingly, was against lending money at interest and it was for fixed prices. You were not allowed to undercut your fellow worker or manufacturer. In a sense the system was opposite to ours: It valued community over individuality, and precisely guarded against the kind of collapse that unrestrained competition has led to.
Good: To turn to modern times for a moment, what do you think of the whole “sustainability” trend?
T.H.: Three years ago, business hated anything “green.” Then they realized that it was simply a new market, and therefore great news. What sustainability really means is growing your own vegetables. It means wood not plastic, composting toilets, chickens in the yard. It means fun and a different kind of life—not just swapping one brand for another.
Good: In The Freedom Manifesto, you urge readers to “stop consuming and start producing.” What’s that mean?
T.H.: In practical terms it means rediscovering our ability to make things, like bread, jam and clothes. Instead of buying everything, grow stuff, make stuff—rediscover the lost arts of husbandry. When you cut down your need for money in this way, you cut down your need for work, leading to more idleness all round. Look at Cuba today. Look at the U.K. during the Second World War. You can supply for yourself a lot more of the things that you need.
Good: But Cuba is dirt poor. Is that what you’re advocating?
T.H.: I just want to say that living on modest means is not necessarily a bad thing. Thrift can be creative. I don’t really care whether people are rich or poor: the thing really is your approach to life. I just happen to think that promoting the idea of being rich is ridiculous, because only a few people can be rich, whereas many can live on modest incomes. So to me it makes a lot of practical sense to promote, not poverty, exactly, but the ability to live well on small incomes.
Good: Is that what you mean in The Freedom Manifesto, when you urge readers to “Reject Career”? Do you think people should give up work and all the ambition that goes with it?
T.H.: It is not so much work per se that I am against, but rather work for someone else and work that you don’t enjoy. I work quite hard, about four hours a day, but I do things that I enjoy. How can we reclaim work for ourselves, and make it something joyful and creative? As for aspirations, I think that to aspire to real freedom in everyday life should replace the aspiration to make a lot of money.
Good: A final question, and an important one: you’ve suggested that people should buy ukuleles. Um, why?
T.H.: I don’t really believe that anyone should do anything. But having said that, I personally have derived a huge amount of pleasure from learning the uke. They are better than iPods. I play Woody Guthrie songs and the Beatles. Kids can play it, and it’s elegant for the ladies: think Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn. They are very cheap and very portable, and they’ve got that fun-loving Hawaiian vibe. You can have one on your desk and practice while waiting for large downloads. Try it: Take a uke to work.
Tom Hodgkinson’s most recent book, The Freedom Manifesto, is available from Harper Perennial. His website is http://idler.co.uk/.
The website Good is located at http://www.good.is/
A few days ago, in this series on What Would a Low Density Lifestyle World Look Like?, I stated Be a Leader, Not a Follower.
In that article, I said how a Low Density Lifestyle world would be one of people with vision willing to take bold action, of being leaders not afraid to follow their dream and not afraid to come up with big ideas.
The challenge though is that even when you come up with a big idea or a vision, fear may stop you from moving forward with it. There will be many excuses as to why you can’t do it, and then fear will paralyze you from even coming close to implementing it.
The mind will often play tricks on you, and come up with all kinds of convoluted reasons for why you can’t do something, using all kinds of twisted logic to keep you from realizing your greatness.
Ultimately, it’s a matter of getting past your comfort zone. It can be very uncomfortable stepping outside of what is known in order to go into uncharted territory. It’s often easier to make excuses as to why you can’t do something, as opposed to just doing something, especially something bold.
So watch the video above featuring athlete Matt Scott. I guarantee that you will be inspired to get out of your chair, put the excuses aside, and take bold action.