May 31, 2017

Internet Archive - Free Learning

There is a lot of stuff for sale on the internet. Actually, is there anything NOT for sale on the internet? However, there is also a lot available for free. I prefer free, like library free. That is my favourite.

I have written previously about sites that give one free access to books online. Since then I have also found free audio books online, listened to several, and bookmarked more.

Books like:

Analects of Confucious

Once and Future King - T. H. White

Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson

Island - Aldous Huxley

The site I am referring to is Internet Archive, a place unique to me in all my internet wanderings. It is my new favourite place to go instead of reading the news (although you can find news items there).

The Internet Archive is a San Francisco–based nonprofit digital library founded in 1996. It's stated mission is "universal access to all knowledge." It offers "permanent access for researchers, historians, and scholars to historical collections that exist in digital format." As a life long learner and chronically curious person, I can get behind that.

This treasure trove provides free public access to collections of digitized materials, including websites, software applications/games, music, movies/videos, moving images, and nearly three million public-domain books.

In addition to listening to audiobooks, I have also used this site to do things like research early rock and roll, including listening to a recording of "Rocket 88", a 1951 song some believe was the first recorded number that rocked and rolled in the way that it did.

A search for Henry David Thoreau returns 1,109 items. So many items, so little time.

They also have an archive called the Wayback Machine that stores information so that inconvenient truths can't disappear down the memory hole. Not Buying Anything is even archived there, giving this blog an air of semi-kinda-sort-of-quasi-permanence, as long as there is electricity and an open internet. 

With links to collections from major libraries, the possibilities are endless. And free. 

Fill your mind. It's a giant digital library you can access from the comfort of your own home.

May 29, 2017

For Whom Does Your Government Work?

I don't know if I am right, but it seems to me that a country that has a government that works for the people (like they are suppose to in theory), would have a lower incidence of poverty. One would also think that rich nations would have less poverty.

This is not the case, so I wonder - for whom do these governments really work?

The chart above reveals the priorities of various governments in OECD countries, which are among the most "highly developed". If these countries can't eliminate poverty, in spite of being the richest on the planet, how can any other country get rid of this scourge?

How about less war, and more help for people? We have everything we need to provide every citizen with a dignified, satisfying simple life. Could it be that our governments are the problem and not the solution?

For whom does your government work?

May 27, 2017

The Good Life

This little person, and her friend, know how to live.

“The most sophisticated people I know - inside they are all children.”  

- Jim Henson

Does it get any better than this? I think not. This is the good life.

Our inner child craves the simple life that we all knew when young and still relatively unblemished by culture. A time when a puddle, a feathery friend and blossoms everywhere made for a moment of perfection.

A time when playing and simply living was our major focus.

A simple life allows time to play and be.

Find a puddle. Jump up and down. Enjoy it with a friend.

This is the good life, that is attainable by all.

“Everything seemed possible, when I looked through the eyes of a child.
And every once in a while; I remember,
I still have the chance to be that wild.” 
- Nikki Rowe

May 25, 2017

Do Nothing

People are always in a rush to do something, anything. But sometimes doing nothing is a viable alternative that should be considered.

If you are bleeding profusely, you probably need medical intervention. However, in my experience, things like aches and pains often go away on their own if one is patient.

Even though we have universal health care in Canada, I try to stay away from doctors as much as possible. The average "medical professional" will want to do something even if doing nothing is the way to go. Sometimes the cure is worse than the issue at hand.

Preventable medical errors are the third leading cause of death (after heart disease and cancer) in the US, a statistic that reflects what can happen in any modern medical system with a do-something-at-any-cost mentality. And the cost of these errors in the US? 1 trillion dollars per year.

"It has taken a lot to prove to [the medical community] that many of these deaths are not a natural consequence of the underlying disease. They are purely failures of the system." 
- Ashish Jha, MD, Harvard School of Public Health

I have often found that things I initially thought were problems, given the passage of time, were not anything I needed to do something about. The problem fixes itself without my intervention, or I discover that I was wrong, and no problem existed in the first place.

Either way, nothing needed to be done.

The best is when you do have a problem, then wait patiently, and find that the problem fixes itself. It can happen. Often, vehicle issues fall under this category. Linda and I call this "self-fixing", and it has happened often in the vehicles we have owned. Only once have we ever been stranded at the side of the road. At that point it was time to do something.

I have to wonder if self-fixing has something to do with the power of thoughts, quantum mechanics, and the underlying reality of the Universe. What if we are way more powerful than we think?

Or when one has a broken heart. What is to be done? Nothing. Be patient and let time work its magic.

If you have a gash in your skin and you are bleeding all over the place, you should do something about it, and right away. But we do not always need to spring into action for every perceived "problem".

In the right situations, all we need to do is give ourselves permission to do nothing.

May 22, 2017

Simple Living Manifesto

The Not Buying Anything

I am living simply in order to learn some truths about the world and myself. I am living simply to oppose the forces of a brutal and violent exploitation of people and planet. I fight with gentleness and kindness born by keeping my expectations realistic and wholesome.

Living a simple life liberates me from the lies and myths of the dominant consumer culture. In stripping my life to the essentials, I take back my birthright as a free human and can share my discoveries with as little interference as possible.

I will rethink everything I have been taught, and remember what I am doing here on this beautiful planet, at this beautiful moment in time. Simplicity is as close to perfection as we can get.

This is why I will continue to maintain a simple life: to eliminate all manufactured distractions, to live slowly and deliberately, to really live and feel. I will not be a cog in their machine and support a dead end way of life. I will not be part of the shopping dead.

I want my life to be an example to others. I want my message to be one of possibilities, freedom, and connection. I want to blow away the unnecessary and replace it with the essential. I want to live and speak freely.

Our success isn’t measured in money, or possessions, or fame. The success game has always been rigged in order to keep us in line and exhibiting culturally appropriate behaviours that support a corrupted and broken system. I may not have much, but am I enjoying life? Am I challenging myself to take advantage of all events to learn and become a better person? Am I living in the moment? Do I feel at peace and harmony? Do I feel the freedom that all of humanity should be enjoying?

I don’t live simply in order to save the world. That is a tall order for one person. I live this way to plumb the depths of reality minus the filter of cultural programming, and belittling propaganda. That will save me. I might be able to help others save themselves. Then, when we reach a critical mass, our simple lives will affect everything.

I have decided that the best possible life comes from tapping into the universal wisdom, from living fearlessly and with the utmost integrity, without apology or explanation. You do not need stuff to do that.

I believe a simple life is armour against a global assault that tries to force us to feel small and insignificant. We are neither. I share this simple living manifesto to inspire, and remind all people of the freedom and joy that can be had when you choose simplicity as your way of life. It represents the path back to an empowered citizenship, connection, and contentment.

A simple life that is materially sparse, but spiritually rich, opens the door to experience life without limits, as it is meant to be lived. Refusing to participate in the destruction that is the modern, consumer dream allows one to return to participating in the creative side of things, to be an artist again. Through making your life your art, the truth will be revealed, and it will be amazing.

Against all odds, we must fight the forces of progress for profit with voluntary simplicity. The time to act is getting shorter every day. The best time to start living a more simple, enjoyable life is now. This very moment.

Get started, and transform your life. In the process, we will transform the world.

May 20, 2017

Seedy Saturday

Old buckets found in a midden on our property, holding radish seed pods.

This weekend has traditionally been the time to plant a garden in most of Canada. Climate change is altering that a bit, with spring weather often coming one or two weeks earlier than usual. Our garden was planted a week ago, so this weekend we are sitting back and watching it germinate. 

While we wait for that magical moment when sprouts reaching for the sun break out of the soil, we are enjoying watching the green and growing garlic sway and play in the wind. We also have a couple of last years kale plants that we are growing for a second season in order to harvest some seeds this fall. 

Mmmm. Seeds. Magical packages of potential. Food for stomach and soul.

A carton of seeds, anyone? Left to right - marigold, radish, summer savoury, cilantro.

Last fall I collected a bunch of different seeds beyond what we needed to save for this year. I kept them around because they were so beautiful that I didn't want to compost them right away. It doesn't seem right to dispose of seeds. 

Any seeds. Ever. 

Today's seed hoarders are tomorrow's seed stores. Plus seeds are all so unique and beautiful in their own right. And many can be eaten - beans, and peas, and squash seeds (lightly salted, and baked with a bit of olive oil) for example.

Come on seeds, we're cheering for you. 

Note: I shouldn't joke about seed hoarding since it could be a potentially harmful situation, like any other hoarding behaviour. See here for a Seed Hoarders Anonymous thread on a gardening website. 

When I visited there, I noticed there was an advertisement for seeds at the top of the page... probably not a good idea. But there are some amazing stories there if you want to quell the urge to buy a bunch of seeds you don't need or can't afford. Free seeds? Well, that's a different story. 

May 17, 2017

Staying At Home

In a consumer society all the good stuff is "out there". The thing to do is go out and get it, whatever it is. Staying home is not recommended. You can't spend money and access the good stuff if you don't go out.

Fear of missing out is one way they pry us out of our comfy nests. If you don't go out, you will miss out. They want us out and about as much as possible. This is because when one goes out, one must spend money.

"Which is worth more, a crowd of thousands,
or your own genuine solitude?
Freedom, or the power over an entire nation? 
A little while alone in your room
will prove more valuable than anything else
that could ever be given you" 
- Rumi 

Go to a movie. Go out for food. Go to a concert. Go to a bar. Go for coffee. Go for a vacation. Go to town. Go shopping. Go here, go there. Go, go, go. Buy, buy, buy. Repeat.

Don't go to a park, that is free. If you do, buy something to take with you first.

Instead of going out, we should spend more time staying at home and going in. The answers are not "out there". The answers don't cost anything. Freedom is here at home.

Don't be afraid - you aren't missing anything by not going out, and you may gain everything by spending a little time alone in the comfort of your own home.

May 15, 2017

Why Isn't There A Maximum Income?

22K Gold Toilet Paper - $1.3M a roll

There is a lot of talk about providing workers with a minimum income. You know, an income that a person can actually live on. But why isn't there any talk about a maximum income?

Because it would kill innovation and motivation? Wrong. Curious people with their integrity intact would continue on as if money didn't even exist. Science started with an attitude of inquiry and a desire to improve life. Not patents or profit.

People rarely use large profits for good. Money should be seen as a curse beyond a certain point. Too little is not good. Too much is even worse because invariably it will be used in ways not conducive to planetary health.

“Do the very rich suffer from maladjusted conditions that lead them to accumulate more than they could ever need, or are they just greedy and selfish?”    
- Ontario Coalition Against Poverty leaflet

Look at the evidence. The rich over consume to the point of ridiculosity. Does one really need gold plated anything?  The conspicuous consumption and greed of the money hoarders infects everything, leading to social strife and environmental degradation.

Therefore, why not a maximum income?

It would most definitely enable a minimum income for all workers and their families, and avoid the corrosive effects of income inequality, and the struggles of the working poor.

What would be fair at the top end of the wealth spectrum? 1 million/year? 1 Billion/year? A trillion?
How much would be enough?

Research shows that somewhere between $50,000 and $75,000 is the income sweet spot. Any less and life might be a struggle, any more and the extra fails to increase happiness.

That sounds about right, although from personal experience I know that one can get by on much less and be happy and content.

May 14, 2017

Thanks, Moms

The sun rise this morning from our high point in Digby County, Nova Scotia.

Happy Mother's Day to my mom, Margaret. And to Linda's mom, Belle.

Happy Mother's Day to your mom, (insert name here).

Happy Mother's Day to you, (insert name here), if you are a mom.

And Happy Mother's Day to OUR mother - Gaia.

May 13, 2017

Distressed Bucket For Distressed Chives

Since moving from the west coast in 2014, I have lived on an old potato farm just above the ocean in Nova Scotia. There is an ancient disposal system that comes with a property like this, a sign of the times and the evolution of waste disposal.

Yes, across the field, down  a slight slope, then just into the forest, and one finds several small middens.

Midden is a Swedish word meaning "an old dump for domestic waste", and that is what I came across while exploring the margin of the woods. For someone that loves sourcing found things for free, the midden is a treasure trove of vintage discoveries.

In these piles I have found mostly glass and rusted metal, but in the top-most layers a new material makes its ugly and permanent appearance - plastic. It is the most uninteresting and unattractive stuff in the piles.

I also found a vehicle licence plate from 1954, and that was toward the top of the pile, so the midden may be older than that. Considering the European presence here since the 1600s, it could be much older.

The items that drew my attention were several galvanized metal buckets in various states of breakdown. Some were squished, others rusted through. But they all looked beautiful to me, and I needed something for some stressed out chives planted in an unattractive broken plastic container, left here by the previous renters.

I'm not much of a decorator, but from what I know, distressed is de rigour "whether your style is primitive, modern, or shabby chic".  Even better if you style is like mine: found and free.

Next midden rescue project? A large group of intact vintage canning jars.

May 12, 2017

Hedonism vs Helping

NBA reader JC asked a good question in a comment in response to my post "Living As If The Planet Really Is Collapsing". If we are in a state of collapse, why do anything? This is an excellent question that is probably being asked a lot right now, all around the globe.

Here is my take.

At this point we can do one of two things.

A. Take 60s rock star Jim Morrison's hedonic advice:

I don't know what's gonna happen, man,  but I wanna have my kicks before the whole shit house goes up in flames.

Four years earlier he wrote The End in which he said:

“What have they done to the earth? What have they done to our fair sister? 
Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her.  
Stuck her with knives in the side of the dawn, 
And tied her with fences and,  
dragged her down.”

He could obviously see trouble coming, even back then, and made his choice about how to respond - in a typical rock and roll fashion.

Fast forward to 2017, and it seems that many people are choosing the hedonistic route, deciding to get their kicks, and not concern themselves with the consequences.

But when has that ever worked for us? Morrison was dead by 27.

When you choose Option A you will get the same result as any other hedonic pursuit - instant, but short lived gratification, and a further deepening of the problems to which one is responding.

The other option is:

B. Choose to help. Do something to improve the world in spite of evidence which shows it might already be too late, because what if it is not?

Even if it is, choosing B is a more mindful and joyous way to live. Choosing B is not giving up. B is right living and setting limits, even when no one is forcing you to do so. Self-control and delaying gratification leads to lasting happiness and improved feelings of self worth.

It is possible that eventually the problems will be solved. Maybe unlikely, but possible.

Each of us must decide our own response. I have made my choice. It will be interesting to see what everyone else decides as we circle the drain.

May 10, 2017

The Garden Zone

The soil is prepared, and the seeds are out. This week we enter another dimension, and plant the garden.

You are traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of soil and seeds but of creation itself. A journey into a wondrous land whose broad boundaries are that of Nature. Your next stop, the Garden Zone!

We have a raised bed garden, so when I go into the garden, I really go into the garden. Mentally I step into another dimension. Everything else goes away except my shovel, the soil, worms, and unbounded potential.

And the black flies, which are little teachers of keeping one's focus.

The place is here, the time is now, and the journey into the Garden Zone could be your journey.

Let's grow together, and allow abundance to reign.

Thank you to Rod Serling and Mother Nature for making this post possible.

May 8, 2017

Living As If The Planet Really Is Collapsing

What if scientists are right and the planet's systems really are under threat of collapse, or are already in a state of collapse? What if humans were the major cause of that?

Based on an evaluation of more than 1,000 previous studies, a new meta-review by an international group of 18 scientists suggests the Earth is perilously close to a tipping point where resource consumption, ecosystem degradation, climate change, biodiversity loss and population growth will trigger massive changes in the biosphere. 
- From: Scientists Tip 2025 for Possible Planetary Collapse

How would one live if this were true?

After writing this blog since 2008, and reading over 5000 comments left by readers (often filled with simple living related ideas and links), it is easy for me to riff off a few ideas. More than likely you have a few of your own. Please do share them in a comment below.

Living As If The Planet Is Collapsing

  • no flights
  • driving only when necessary, using a shared car if possible
  • eat a plant based diet
  • live and buy locally
  • conserve energy/resources at home
  • use a laundry line
  • ride a bike, walk, or take public transportation
  • work at a job that provides right livelihood
  • share things with neighbours
  • demand an end to all funding for war
  • go carbon free
  • promote the adoption of a steady state economy (no growth)
  • have smaller families, encourage childlessness
  • live in small homes, possibly shared with several generations
  • grow a garden, the bigger the better
  • support revoking the corporate charter of any company found to harm the environment
  • eat food grown through organic agriculture
  • foster cooperation over competition
  • discourage the accumulation of wealth and conspicuous consumption
  • consume to satisfy needs, not wants
  • enjoy, and be grateful for, every moment we have on this amazing planet
  • be kind

How would one live if the planet were collapsing, putting our very survival at risk?

More like a monk than a millionaire.

“Professor Stephen Hawking thinks the human species will have to populate a new planet within 100 years if it is to survive. 
With climate change, overdue asteroid strikes, epidemics and population growth, our own planet is increasingly precarious.” 
- BBC, in announcing the new series Expedition New Earth in which Hawking explains why he thinks humanity needs to find a "Planet B", pronto

May 3, 2017

Protest Art/Zen MashUp

"Your perspective is not the truth."

This post is a mashup of two simple living related threads that have been weaving through my life for a few years. I think they are a natural fit, so I sewed them together here for your enjoyment in the fabric of your mind.

The first is protest art, this time from The Dark Cellars Project. NBA reader, William, made me aware of TDCP, so a shout out to him for turning my attention in this direction.

I am sharing a few of my favourite pieces, but check out the link below to see many more simplicity-provoking artworks by the artists involved.

The project can be found at the most excellent website The Simplicity Collective, co-directed by Dr. Samuel Alexander, an advocate of degrowth, permaculture, and voluntary simplicity.

"I made a call out for artists and graphic designers to be in touch if they wanted to explore ways to use art and image to unsettle the normality of consumer capitalism and provoke thought about alternative ways to live and be. 
The Dark Cellars are an expanding network of oppositional artists, graphic agitators, renegade marketers, and culture jammers more generally who are using art, design, and image to creatively subvert the structures of meaning which entrench consumer culture and carbon capitalism. 
By exploring a new aesthetics of existence, our defining objective is to open up imaginative and cultural space for new ways to live and be – for ourselves, for others, and for the sake of our fragile planet."

- Dr. Samuel Alexander, The Dark Cellars Project

"What you chase consumes you."

The other part of today's simple living/anti-consumer culture/anti-carbon capitalist mashup are Zen related quotes from the Daily Zen, which can be found on Twitter. I do use Twitter occasionally, and when I do, DZ is a big reason why I check in.

All quotes in this post were sourced at DZ.

"I started Daily Zen in 2008 to share quotes pertaining to my meditation practice and self-directed studies of Eastern philosophy. Twitter had just started and it seemed like a clever outlet for the aphoristic wisdom I found in various spiritual texts.  
The goal of these writings is simply to share my reflections with others.  
Remember— the good life is as simple as paying attention."
- Charlie Ambler, @dailyzen

"When people do not ignore what they should ignore, but ignore what they should not ignore, this is ignorance." 
- Chuang-tzu

"May all beings everywhere be happy and free."

- Mangala Mantra

"We're scared of slowing down because we can't admit to ourselves that many of our activities are silly and unnecessary."

"The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in."

- Rumi

"Compassion requires letting go of our own ego."

"Each moment you have a choice— to be grateful or to want something else. Choose gratitude."

May 1, 2017

International Workers' Day

I got this up a little late, but any day is a good day for a general strike. The neo-feudal plantation bosses need to be reminded of where the real wealth is generated - in the tired, callused hands of the workers.

"You load sixteen tons, what do you get?  
Another day older and deeper in debt." 
- Merle Travis, 16 Tons

“If wars are eliminated and production is organized scientifically, it is probable that four hours’ work a day will suffice to keep everybody in comfort.”  
- Bertrand Russell

“When work is a pleasure, life is a joy. When work is a duty, life is a slavery.”  
- Maxim Gorky