When I first decided that I wanted to delve deeper into simple living, some thought I was making a colossal mistake, or worse. I could have stayed in my teaching position until I was 65. Over the course of my career I heard of many colleagues that passed away shortly before, or after retirement. All that financial planning is rendered ineffective if you die before the first pension check hits your mailbox. I had to change my life before it happened to me.
I took a two year sabbatical first, wanting to ease into a life with less. After the freedom of these two years I couldn't go back. I quit.
"If you don't teach what will you do?" I was asked. My mind was reeling thinking of the infinite possibilities. Don't get me wrong, teaching was one of the most incredible and satisfying things I have ever done. But it has a way of consuming your time; it takes over your life, becomes your life. It is 'right livelihood' but at what cost?
Someone else asked, "What about retirement?" Since I try to live in the moment, considering this was not at the top of my list. Sixty-five felt like a long way away, and I wanted to retire to a simpler life immediately.
My favorite reaction, though, came from two individuals I didn't even know. I explained to these friends of friends, that I had quit teaching to live a slower-paced, environmentally responsible, low-income life. The young couple were silent as they shook their heads in response to my words. Finally the woman looked at me, and proclaimed, "My mom would think you are lazy."
Ouch. Move over Big Brother, Big Mother is here. Call me a slacker, call me a hippie, a radical even, but don't tell me your Mom thinks I'm lazy. That's just mean. I guess what she was saying was she thought that my work ethic sucked. This is what French philosopher André Gorz said about the work ethic:
The work ethic has become obsolete. It is no longer true that producing more means working more, or that producing more will lead to a better way of life. The connection between more and better has been broken; our needs for many products and services are already more than adequately met, and many of our as-yet- unsatisfied needs will be met not by producing more, but by producing differently, producing other things, or even producing less. This is especially true as regards our needs for air, water, space, silence, beauty, time and human contact. Neither is it true any longer that the more each individual works, the better off everyone will be.Critique of Economic Reason, 1989
Go tell your momma that. We have to become smarter about work and consumption and quality of life. We have to lift our foot off the gas pedal as we speed toward the precipice. If that means affecting the 72% of the economy that consumer spending accounts for, then so be it. It has to happen or we are going over. Things will be changing. I am getting out of the car, even if your mom thinks I'm lazy.