When we started to go another level deeper in aligning some of our lifestyle more to our core beliefs I wasn’t really sure what our friends would think. Probably something like, “there they go again.” In fact we named the blog “Highly Uncivilized” because that’s what I think I look like to my neighbors on the weekends when I’m covered with dirt from the garden, converting an old bus to a camper (long story), or scavenging very usable trash from their curb on bulk pickup day. I think there’s a lot of chuckling and head scratching going on because, “surely they can afford to buy a real camper,” or piece of lumber, or wooden patio furniture, and we can, but that’s not the point. Monday morning I still put the suit back on and drive to work, although often now I carpool.
The point is that we don’t believe in creating unnecessary waste because it seems like living wastefully means we’re not really thankful for what we have, and we are. We’ve also “been there done that” on some expensive cars and semi-luxury items and they didn’t really have the positive benefit on my life I was lead to believe they would. They’re fun to drive, and the new car smell is definitely better than the used car smell, but as it turns out, expensive cars are also more expensive to maintain, and you’ll give yourself an ulcer worrying about where to park them when you get to work. I can also probably afford to just buy all of my organic food at Whole Foods instead of learning to make some of them myself, but the funny thing is when I save all this time by having everything done for me I end up yearning for a fun and rewarding hobby to spend my time on. Turns out that actually living at least some of my own life instead of having someone package it all up with a little bow and handing it to me can be quite a reward in itself. It makes me wonder about my strange desire to buy a new, very realistic video game with floor pads and motion controllers that will transport me into a virtual world of riding a bicycle, instead of just going outside and riding one. What’s up with that?
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Doesn’t it seem that if we were just a little less abstracted from everything we might tend to vote better, live better and make better choices without having to be converted by multi-million dollar marketing campaigns? Nothing against marketing at all, but don’t you think you might look at your furniture differently if it was hand crafted by someone you knew? Or you’d buy produce from a particular farm because of how well they treated their employees, even if it cost a little more? Making my own food has completely changed the way I think about food and my health. Trying alternative modes of transportation has made me think about the challenge of transportation in urban areas and maybe what the workplace of the next decade could look like. To ruminate distantly and abstractly on a problem may not be as practical as really getting up next to it, holding it’s hand and taking it out to dinner.
So, meanwhile back at this post, I’m finding that including our friends in some of our changes is removing a layer of abstraction from me. Over the last several weeks we’ve been greatly and unexpectedly gifted many times and I’m really liking it. Last week a friend brought over two grocery bags of glass bottles from the holidays that we’ll use for homebrewing and some fermenting projects. The week before we were blessed with an old, but perfectly good wooden bench for our front porch that was recovered from a work site and delivered to our home. Today a gift of glass containers we can use to store raw oatmeal and seeds for sprouting. This same friend is insisting that I let him help me with a project on the bus conversion. He is an expert welder and wants to make a bracket I’ve been needing to complete a dinette table. A couple of months ago my brother brought over a whole car load of plastic storage bins because he knew if we couldn’t use them we would get them to someone that could. I’m guessing it was several hundred dollars worth of bins that they had used for their many years of moving.
What inspired this seems to be nothing more complicated than a little communication. Of course we also feed our guests on a regular basis and make them try our new vegan lasagna, sauerkraut and other tasty delicacies. I think that helps. Also when we send food or beer home with people they bring back the original containers, and often many others. I think they’re secretly hoping we’ll send some back, full, and we will because it’s awesome good fun to share. Several years ago I bought empty, resealable bottles for brewing and paid $2.50 each. That was dumb. Then I found I could just buy resealable bottles at the liquor store with beer still in them for $2.50. Now I’ve learned that if I give my neighbor a beer and tell him I need bottles I get them for free.
I’m getting raw materials for free, diverting junk from the landfill, and doing something fun by sharing with friends and neighbors. Buy a man a beer and you quench his thirst for an hour, but teach a man to make beer and you might change his life in some profound ways forever. I think it was Ben Franklin who is reported to have said, “beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy” but I’m guessing that a lot of other men have also said it.
Unsurprisingly this change is a lot easier than I thought it would be, and the more I do it the more it seems to build a momentum of its own. A gift I give myself by sharing it with others.