It is paradoxical that the art of simplification, often requires more effort, than not simplifiyng. The end result is usually worth it, provided that the motivating reasons for simplification are inline with a hollistic understanding of how a simplified culture can be enriching, of one’s life.
To expand on how motivating reasons can affect the end result, I will use two types of fast food as examples.
Using modern fast food outlets (burgers) as an example which is contradictory to the philosophy of this site. The aim for making food fast, is part of a strategy for increasing turnover and therefore profit, by providing convinience to customers. This however is only a part of the package. To make this system work to full advantage, requires keeping costs as low as possible, while making people like what they eat, enough to want to come back. Essentially this is done with large amounts of salt and sugar, in quantities that are not healthy.
That doesn’t, however, mean that all fast food is bad. If we take another example where profit isn’t the primary motive. Rather, the saving of fuel is the primary motivation. We can have fast food that is both tasty, and healthy. In this instance the fast food referred to, was born out of a scarcity of cooking fuel in China. The solution to this fuel crisis, was to cut the ingredients small, so they could be cooked quickly in a wok, hence using less fuel.
The result of this second example is simple, fast food which has both good flavour, and is healthy. While also being quick and easy to make.
When we use terms like Culture Simple, voluntary simplicity, to simplify, etc.. What we are really talking about is voluntarily reducing our living standards towards poverty. For some people it means reducing to exactly the standards of poverty. There is a key difference though, and that is A; you are doing it on a voluntary basis and not through reasons beyond your control, and B; you can decide just how far down the path of poverty you are willing to go. Hint: Though there is a point of diminishing returns, by and large, the further you go the more life options open up. What people call poverty today (growing your own food etc..) was regarded as comfortable living 60 years ago.
One of the first opportunities to open up, is that you no longer require as much income to maintain your chosen lifestyle. Thereby allowing either a reduction in necessary work hours, or other types of work, that doesn’t pay as well, but may be more satisfactory. Another way of looking at it, is that you could continue doing what you do now, but are now able to retire earlier, or take longer breaks from working throughout the year. It also means that when unexpected financial shocks happen, you are in a better position and have already developed better skills to weather them.
Above all, going down this path of voluntary poverty, gives one freedom. More and more, over the last thirty years or so, as living standards in the industrial world have increased, credit has become both cheaper and more available, which has resulted in a massive influx of debt-serfdom. In other words, people have sold their freedom for a few trinkets today, which they are bound to paying off at an inflated rate, often in perpetuity.
“Finally paid off the car, time to buy a new one on credit.” “A 1,000 square foot house could be paid off in a reasonable amount of time, and would have been big enough, but we wanted a 2,500 or 4,000 square foot house.” “we need 684 channels of cable television, but we are saving because we gave up the 964 channel plan”
There is a financial cost to following the path of life on credit, but the real cost is your freedom; freedom to decide to quit and look for something more satisfying to do, or to start a business of your own.
In most cases there is a big difference between needs and wants. There is nothing wrong with wants, and pursuing them. Just be sure that the benefit outweighs the cost, for you.
Culture Simple, strangely enough, doesn’t equate to strict simplicity. It is more of a philosophy, for living a life which avoids many of contemporary cultural complexities. There are a number of ways to approach this goal, but first you need to identify which complexities you are trying to remove, or more to the point, why you are removing them.
A couple of good things to remove from your life, are broadcast television and news media. The reasoning is quite straight forward, they sap large amounts of time away from your life. By and large, they of themselves, do not add much in the way of personal benefit, and can often lull you into lifestyle choices that are counter productive. That is not to say that television programs or news in itself are bad, rather that in the broadcast television and news media formats, they are not focused to maximize time utilization.
News media provides only small sound bites, without much depth of field and provides so many different sound bites, that you cannot take much in, in the long term. You can however filter out which news is worthwhile, by receiving it via society, which will by and large only give you the more relevant news, allowing you to research, more in depth, that which interests you most.
Equally, most television programs are available on the internet, though often with a delay in availability. Watching television in this manner rather than via broadcast television, tends to mean that you watch more of what actually interests you, rather than what just happens to be on at the time. There is also a tendency to watch less in this manner. This means more quality viewing for the time expended, and generally less exposure to commercial advertising, which is always a good thing.
Just doing these two things can give you several extra hours per week, in time that can be used in other ways, not currently available to most people.
It is considered normal for most people; when travelling to and from work, to simply hop in their car, and drive. For many it is considered the most efficient method of getting from point A, to point B. I would like to challenge that notion, and probably not in the normal way. I am not going to preach the gospel of public transport, though it does make sense in many cases.
I am talking about the costs and benefits of an electric assist bicycle, versus a car. The bike I have was the cheapest mountain bike I could find new, that had cable disc brakes. That is, in my opinion, a sensible starting point. Disc brakes give much better stopping power for the higher average speeds that the electrification gives than the standard vee brakes, of old. And cables are much simpler than hydraulics. From there I added a permanent magnet motor, with regenerative braking (reduces the effort required from the brakes), a controller, and a LiFePO4 (Lithium) battery. In addition, I also added a rear vision mirror to the side of my handle bar, and very powerfull led riding lights, front and rear. Cost wise, it is about the same as a very small motor scooter, new.
The difference though, is in running costs, and health benefits. Starting with the running costs, what would cost around $20 in real costs for running my car, costs around 15 cents on the bike. To put that in context, the fuel cost in the car would be around $10, but then there are other on road costs associated, including registration and insurance, and of course regular maintenance. With the bike, the on road costs are maintenance only, and since it is a much smaller vehicle; parts are much less, and I do the work myself. By my estimate, even if I only use the bike to commute to work 50% of the time, the bike will pay for itself after about 18 months, in savings. Also, I won't need to replace the car with a new one as often, because it is doing much lower mileage now.
Then there is the health benefit. Though it only takes very light pedal power to run, that continuous light pedaling contributes to daily aerobic exersize, which with time tends to become more physical as you become fitter, without the effort required from more traditional exersize forms. This in turn leads to better sleep at night and being more alert on arrival to work, due to more exersize, which you don't have to dedicate more time to, since it is occuring during your daily commute.
My daily commute is a little over 30 kilometers, with around a third of that climbing hills. My electric assist bicycle has exceeded my expectations.
The main aim of this site, is to give ideas, that, through a simplification of lifestyle, can lead to an enriched life; in personal fulfillment and personal resource base.
With that in mind, it is worth seeing where the main forms of complexity extend from, in modern industrial cultures. In my opinion the two primary causes, leading to the complexity in modern life are energy use and fiat banking. I don't think either are inherently evil, however the way they work in contemporary society needs to be understood, before you can understand how much of an effect they have in the complexity of everyday life. The following video gives a good overall synopsis of current energy and touches lightly on current banking systems.
A series of video's about an guy sailing from San Francisco to BC, on a replica Spray, to meet Allen Farrell and China Cloud. Allen gives some interesting perspective on lifestyle choice.
A businessman was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The businessman complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them. The Mexican replied only a little while.
The businessman then asked why he didn’t stay out longer and catch more fish? The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs. The businessman then asked, but what do you do with the rest of your time? The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos; I have a full and busy life, señor.”
The businessman scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and I could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats; eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you would sell directly to the processor and eventually open your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City where you would run your expanding enterprise.”
The Mexican fisherman asked, “But señor, how long will this all take?” To which the businessman replied, “15-20 years.” “But what then, señor?” The businessman laughed and said, “That’s the best part! When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions.” “Millions, señor? Then what?” The businessman said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”
The fisherman, still smiling, looked up and said, “Isn’t that what I’m doing right now?”
— Author Unknown