March 7, 2016

The Zen Road To Affluence

Affluence can be easy when wants are limited.

There are two possible courses to affluence. Wants may be easily satisfied either by producing much, or desiring little. For most of human history we have achieved affluence not by producing much, but by following a different more sustainable and effective method.

The Zen road to affluence states that human material wants are finite and few, while the means for satisfying those needs is relatively unchanging, but on the whole work well.

By adopting the Zen strategy one can enjoy an unparalleled material plenty - even with a low standard of living. Hunter-gatherer societies, past and present, have provided relative affluence while expending the least amount of energy per capita of any human society. How do they do it? By limiting their wants.

This is a far cry from our present system that sees human wants as infinite, and therefore difficult to provide for. In such a system we have to work harder and longer to produce more, all the while consuming ever more energy to do so.

In the Zen approach there is enough for everyone, and cooperation is possible. Our current system is based on infinite wants, and therefore introduces the idea of scarcity - there will never be enough to fulfill everyone's desire. Therefore you must compete for the available resources to satisfy wants, resulting in huge disparities.

I favour the hunter-gatherer/Zen approach. I would rather limit my wants and have a life than slave away endlessly to provide for my unlimited material desires. When wants are few, attainment is easy. When wants are many, attainment is difficult with frustration and unhappiness being the probable results.

The Zen way is a path that leads to liking what you get, not getting what you like. It is about acceptance of a simple life with few possessions rather than wanting what you think you deserve, or what you think everyone else has.

Philosopher Laurens van der Post illustrated these points when describing the Bushmen of the Kalahari:

"This matter of presents gave us many an anxious moment. We were humiliated by the realisation of how little there was we could give to the Bushmen. Almost everything seemed likely to make life more difficult for them by adding to the litter and weight of their daily round. 
They themselves had practically no possessions: a loin strap, a skin blanket and a leather satchel. There was nothing that they could not assemble in one minute, wrap up in their blankets and carry on their shoulders for a journey of a thousand miles. They had no sense of possession." 

"Imagine a world", John Lennon implored us, "with no possessions." He wondered if we could even think of it, let alone make it happen. He probably knew that we all used to live in such a way, and if this history hadn't been destroyed, we would remember exactly where we came from, and to where we need to return.

I'm back on the Zen road to affluence. Check your wants at the door, and climb aboard. There is room for everyone.


  1. Anonymous3/07/2016

    Beautiful post and a much needed reminder.

  2. Thanks, Miss Marla. Hope all is well with you. Spring is coming and Linda and I are looking forward to getting out of the house and on to our porch to enjoy some warm sunshine. Vitamin D is good.

    1. Anonymous3/08/2016

      All is well. Looking forward to opening the windows and doors!

  3. Anonymous3/07/2016

    Thanks for this. Since giving up unnecessary consumption i feel lighter and I'm finding new things to fill up my time. We just buy the essentials only and this really sets your mind free. Consumption is a form of addictive behaviour and its hard to describe but the world feels more beautiful without it. Lately we are exploring movement and exercise such as systema and tai chi which requiees no material items to praCtice. Alex.

    1. When you live a low consumption lifestyle there is so much more time for other, healthier pursuits. It is freeing to realize that no one, or no thing, can take anything from you when you have very little. If you can be happy with a beautiful basic life, you have it made. No amount of additional money or things can improve such a life.

      Tai chi is beautiful. When Linda and I do transfers together we try to do it in a way that resembles the slow and purposeful movements of Tai Chi. We are in the moment, and in the movement.

  4. Your blog always reminds me of what is truly important. Thank you, I always enjoy reading your posts.

    1. I never tire of hearing that, Kate. It makes all of this so worthwhile. Thanks for your support.


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