Friday, February 20, 2009

Stepping back is stepping up?

The economy is, of course, THE ISSUE. Except, well, it isn't. It is not the "end of the world as we know it." The world as we know it goes through this kind of thing on a pretty regular basis. Unemployment stalks the land but the vast majority of us are still employed. Yet there is something subtle but (perhaps) profound afoot; the idea that the days of debt driven obsessive consumerism have passed. (A "Mea Culpa" here; we own two motorcycles, a pick-up truck, and a boat. We live in the Central West End and have a working fire place. These past couple of weeks we did our bit for the economy by buying a big screen TV and putting in a hardwood floor. A lot of what some people criticize as consumerism I see as people just trying to live as best and as comfortably as they can. Oh, and I make my living driving a corporate jet. Me bad.)

The odd thing is that our goal, (Deb's and mine) really is to downsize, to live simpler, to live lighter on the earth. I don't think we will have pick-up trucks and big screen TVs on the boat. We may lack air conditioning, big refrigerators, closets full of clothes, video games, walls full of pictures, shelves full of do-dads and garages full of tools. (Okay, that last one might hurt a bit. We may stash a couple of motorcycles in a garage somewhere.) We might still have a hard wood floor, sort of, if we end up in a mono-hull. The very nature of living on a boat will make power consumption THE issue when it comes to our personal "consumerism." And living on a sailboat is about as "green" as a person can be. (Not counting the occasional bout of sea sickness!) If we manage to make 100 miles in a day's traveling we will be really moving, but all we will use is a little wind. When I think of it our very definition of "living better" is to reduce (at least to some people's thinking) our "standard of living."

That "standard" is something unique to each. For some it may still be that bigger, newer car, new kitchen, or house with some more bedrooms and cathedral ceiling. And I say more power to them. I hope they get there, sit on their back porch, and smile at their good fortune. For others though, that "back porch" may be a bit smaller, partially filled with a pair of big chrome wheels, have a bunch of ropes running this way and that, be cooled only by the breeze, and move gently with the motion of the waves. The schedule set by the winds and the tides, the "yard" whatever lies off the bow, and the stuff that is owned fits on a floating platform of some 600 square feet or less. For some stepping back really is stepping up.


Steve said...

You've hit on a key point. Many of the troubles today are due to policies which prop up a lifestyle which is generally a bit too ambituous. I think a "normal" economy may be a bit more restrained than the recent past, but the adjustment will be painful and folks will be tempted to fix the symptoms.

T gramps said...

I have heard for years (and mostly agree with) that Americans need to borrow less, spend less, and save more. Now that we are doing just exactly that it is a "bad thing." We are using less oil, burning through fewer resources, producing less garbage and who knows, maybe even spending more time with family or reading a good book. I think what we need to do is learn how to live this way while still keeping people employed. Maybe 30 hour work weeks or a months vacation for everyone? I don't know, but it seems something we should be able to figure out.