A year ago I was sitting on tatami mats in Kamioka.
Five years ago I was hiding in a dorm room in Kentucky.
Nine years ago I was hiding in a smaller dorm
room in Asheville. Today I'm in New Jersey.
I'll be here for a year or three, and then the wanderlust
will continue. For a while I've been thinking California,
which sometimes feels like my Rome; the place where
all my roads lead.
Still, I faintly yearn for a future in another country.
I don't hate America, or even dislike America. For
better or for worse, I am a little slice of America,
and it would be more than a bit insincere to pretend otherwise for a cocktail
But I do miss being in a different culture,
speaking in a different language, learning because you
really need to get groceries or pay the electric bill.
In America, as most everywhere else these days, we've
gotten so caught up in chasing success. We're
working smarter, harder, faster, wiser, buzz-wordier.
The Puritan work ethic fused with capitalism to breed
a mindset that replaces work-to-live and live-to-work
with a simpler equation: work-is-life.
One my favorite phrases I've heard recently is
there is a certain mathematical elegance to ~.
I find it hard to resist the phrase, so I'll indulge
once; there is a certain mathematical elegance to
this tireless quest for efficiency. If we just keep
working more, the increasing levels of production
will solve everything.
But at some point, a wider selection of pre-torn jeans
or dorm furniture doesn't seem to be on the verge of solving
our important problems. The problem isn't just that we're
creating crap. It isn't that we're creating things
The problem is we're creating things without Value.
I think this is the mistake in the current economy,
and also the mistake when we look down on third
world countries. I mean, damn, who wouldn't pity
a country that focuses on producing food, and
didn't produce a single Hummer last year?
So the issue is that we need to realign ourselves
and our economy towards producing Value. How can
we do that? Free markets were supposed to solve that
problem, but were circumvented when mass advertising
began to tamper with our priorities.
As long as producers are exerting such strong forces
on consumers, we can't pretend that all is well with
supply and demand parading as our benevolent dictator.
I haven't figured this one out either, but here are
some guidelines I think lead in the right direction.
- Buy as little as possible and of high quality.
- Prefer items that consolidate things you already own.
- Understand how actions fit into larger patterns.
(Not only for consumption, but also for work.)
- Splurge on good food.
- Save as much as possible. Use it to invest in yourself,
your family, your friends, your community and your
- Work at things you believe matter.
People are the good life.
Minimalism is the good life.
Simple is the good life.