April 20, 2024

The Three Stages of The Quest








Quest. 

The word elicits a deep felt call to challenge, adventure, and an improvement in the human condition.

Across the ages, it has been a commonplace thought that those that seek visions and insight must go apart from others and spend time in the wilderness. 

The quester is stripped to the bare essentials in a moment or life lived at the most simple. 

And the most natural.

Simplicity and nature nurture intentions. They are tools waiting to be used.

Both allow us to break our selves down without the usual distractions so we can remove the ultimate distraction - that which is within. 

As Suzy Kassem writes, "If the mind is in the way, the heart won't see anything."

At the end of the quest, this extreme simplification conducted in nature? 

Kindness, compassion, and a better world. 

Happy questing! 

May we all grow, develop, and evolve individually, and together, in simplicity and nature.


Three Stages of The Quest


1. Sudden jolt. Something tweaks you to begin your quest, and leave everything behind.

2. Down the rabbit hole. Your adventure takes you within, simultaneously curious and bewildered.

3. Understanding and acceptance. The quest ends with the seeker sensing a deeper connection to everything.


Repeat if necessary.













April 15, 2024

Freedom From Owning Things







Most humans see owning stuff as a good thing. The more stuff, the better. 

But is that actually true?

"Other animals don’t anguish with such existential troubles," wrote Walt Whitman. 

"They are so placid and self-contain’d," he said. "They do not sweat and whine about their condition. They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins… Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things.” 

Viewed this way, material things are only a burden. The possessionless free animals have it better than we do.

I would like to be a raven for a day, to be completely liberated from the mania of owning things. And I don't own much.

But that 24 hours would be enlightening.

It takes time and practice, but eventually we can attain a more natural and beneficial state where we too are free from being demented with stuff.

As usual, living simply helps, and is a great start.

You still won't be able to fly.

But you will feel a lot lighter, and your spirit will soar.







 

April 13, 2024

Trickflation





Greedy companies have many different ways of gouging consumers.

There's inflation, shrinkflation, skimpflation, and crapflation, to mention a few.

Another one that has come to my attention is trickflation. Or you could call it sneakflation, or shiftyflation. 

You can file all these shady business practices under the overall category of greedflation.

In the example above, different packaging, exactly the same amount of product, and a new much higher price.

They are sneaky, and they hope we won't notice. 

But we are noticing, and we are getting tired of such dishonourable practices.

So tired, that we are quitting buying crappy products for good.

Demand destruction is always a possible outcome for greedy operators. People stop buying from you, and they never come back.

You can trick some of the people for a while, but you risk them finding out and deciding to keep their money in their wallets as a response.

We're not buying anything from dishonest entities.

And that's most of them.

Good riddance. We will do just fine without your trickery, and without your products.









April 11, 2024

Now You're Cooking With Cow Patties!







Cooking with gas used to be a good thing.

Starting in the 1930s, the phrase "Now you're cooking with gas!" was all the rage. 

Advertisers ran campaigns to get people to switch from wood or coal stoves to newer, cleaner, gas alternatives.

The marketing campaign worked, and millions of indoor natural gas appliances were sold.

Over time the phrase "now you're cooking with gas" was being used as an idiom meaning "doing something very well", or "making excellent progress".

How things have changed. 

Today, not even one hundred years later, governments, including my own here in Canada, are trying to ban gas cook stoves. 

That is right. They aren't banning military activity and war (one of the biggest contributors of green house gases and death globally), they are banning something that accounts for .06 percent of Canada's total emissions.

I am therefore thinking about coining a new phrase more appropriate for our new world order.

Here are a few I am trying out depending how far back we need to go as we replace our centuries long obsession with progress for our new obsession with regress.


"Now you're cooking with electricity!"


"Now you're cooking with coal!"


"Now you're cooking with wood!"


And my personal favourite,

"Now you're cooking with dung!"

Drying cow dung to be used as
cooking fuel in India.

What "modern" people may not realize, is that many people around the world have always used wood and other biomass as their primary fuel source for cooking. 

Half of humanity today still cooks over biomass fires, from China to Kenya, and Guatemala to India. 

Many of those burn dung as in many places it is the only fuel available. 

No bull. It's true.

The burning of dung is a smoky and inefficient process, but it gets the job done.

In our more simple future, those of us used to a gas or electric range in the kitchen, may benefit from having knowledge of alternative forms of cooking.

Otherwise, after the grid goes down, we risk the danger of not being able to cook anything.

Let us today recognize the dung burners. 

We know not what they live with every day.

And that lack of knowledge might become very detrimental in the dung days to come.

Get ready for it.

"Now you're cooking with cow patties!"


Note: new job opportunity - dung delivery dude.









April 9, 2024

Flowers Smile





Blue pines and green bamboos

Shade my window.

Flowers smile;

Warblers sing by my hermitage.

As I climb the stone steps,

I feel the strength of cedars;

At the pure cool mountaintop,

Buddha is bright and vivid.


- Deiryu 

 
"Deiryu (Kanshu Sojun) was a remarkable figure of the Japanese Taishō period (1912-1926) and Shōwa period (1926-1989).

In his painting and calligraphy, Deiryu displayed the humor, strength, and inner vision that made him one of the outstanding monk-artists of the twentieth century." 






April 6, 2024

The Monk's Secret





The monk's secret is very simple.

It is so simple that most modern people can not understand how it can even be possible.

The Monk's Secret

As a monk you have a lower standard of living.

Despite this, you have a much higher quality of life, and are therefore happier.

Go figure. That is what happens when one lives simply with a higher purpose that rises above the work, buy, die model of consumerism.

That little truth makes all of consumerism, and the myth of progress, a bunch of self-serving lies meant to enrich the few while enslaving the rest.

It's not like we are all blissfully happy with the way things are now.

We could wander off in any direction totally aimlessly and probably find something better. 

But we don't have to wander the wilderness when there is a better way right in front of us. It has been there all along, waiting for our awakening.

You don't have to be a monk, but it might improve life to live like one.

The true gifts of life and luxuries are not "out there", but can only be found while reducing distractions and desires and going within.

We have little to lose by trying the age old simplicity solution, and much to gain.

The monk's secret is only a secret because it has been actively suppressed for so long by vested interests determined to keep us bound by harmful ways.

I don't know about you, but I am breaking free of it all, and finding vastley improved happiness as a result of this epic adventure called the simple life.

Highly recommended for any human - monk, or not.






April 3, 2024

Not Buying Anything As Protest





There are three ways to approach a problem. Accept it, change it, or leave it. When it comes to consumerism, our choice has been to change it by leaving it.

The more simply one lives, the less they feed the beast.

Over the decades Linda and I have continuously simplified, which is synonymous with buying less and less of what consumerism has to offer.

We have removed our support for the system as it has descended from bad to worse, and have quit almost everything that is part of a normal life where we live.

The status quo has never appealed to us. We see it as the source of decay we are presently experiencing.

What we need as tyranny takes hold, is a form of protest they can't shut down and destroy.

It has to be something everyone can do, but without a central command or hierarchy that the powers that shouldn't be can target.

Considering that, our diffuse form of protest has been enjoying sticking around the neighbourhood, and not buying into all the stuff and services we've never needed. Or even wanted.

Our lifelong form of protest has been getting along just fine locally and without all the extras.

We just said no, and escaped the wheel of consumer life. 

China's lie flat movement is a current example of a mass opting out.

If active protest is squashed, and it is in most places, not just China, then a passive response is inevitable. 

People are choosing to opt out in greater numbers as the lies and resulting horrors continue to pile up.

What if, along the way, we found we were happier with life outside of the system?

I wonder if that would get anyone's attention?

They can stop us from doing something, but what can they do if we choose to do nothing that supports their corrupted system?

Don't work for them, don't buy their useless narratives, stuff or services.

They don't really care about our ballots.

The same can not be said about our dollars.







April 1, 2024

Silent Spring

Your blog host on a pilgrimage to an old growth western
red cedar tree on Vancouver Island, BC Canada, 2012

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature -- the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” 

 

― Rachel Carson, Silent Spring



 

March 30, 2024

Not Selling Out





I don't want to provide free advertising for any corporation. 

Nor would I accept payment to do such a thing, because I value my freedom and integrity.

Influencer, a job category that didn't even exist when I was in the workforce, is definitely out for me. 

How could I be when I scrupulously erase any sign of corporate identifiers on any of my clothing or possessions?

I use a thick black felt marker, duct tape, or hammer to  remove any labels or logos identifying the corporation expecting me to give them free advertising.


I don't like having that kind of dreck in my face, since the corporate world is so up in our stuff all the time. 

I don't want to promote and provide any large corporation with free advertising on me, or my stuff. 

I don't want them in my headspace.

Influencer equals selling out.


"Selling out" is a common expression for the compromising of a person's integrity, morality, authenticity, or principles by forgoing the long-term benefits of the collective or group in exchange for personal gain, such as money or power. - Wiki


Maybe our culture has forgotten that term. Or it has been consciously buried to avoid nagging feelings of cognitive dissonance.

Selling out used to be a bad thing, not a lucrative job category to which many young people aspire.

For free, or paid, I'm not shilling for any corporate masters.




March 28, 2024

Decision Trees: Should I Buy This?

Click on image to enlarge.




Making a hasty purchase is rarely a good idea. 

That is why advertisers say things like "act now", "limited time only", "hurry", and, "don't wait". 

Advertisers want to trigger an instant sell before we have the time to really think about whether it is a beneficial purchase for us or not.

The faster you buy, the better it is... for them.

Impulse buying leads to post-purchase regret. Overflowing storage spaces and growing debt follow. 

A pre-purchase decision tree is designed to avoid all of that.

A purchase decision tree is a visual template to foster better thinking processes while contemplating buying something.

The main thing it does, besides helping order one's thinking, is slow you down. 

The To Buy or Not to Buy Decision Tree says, "Whoa! there big spender - let's give this, and every purchase, some careful thought before deciding."

After consistent use of such a device, the thought processes become second nature and the actual visual is not required.

Then you don't have to worry, because you're not in a hurry, and your thinking isn't blurry.

Think first, buy later. Then, if you decide to make a purchase, you will know that it is the result of sound thinking rather than an uncontrolled impulse.

Or, don't buy at all. 

That is the conclusion my internal Should I Buy This? decision tree leads me to most of the time.



Click on image to enlarge.




March 26, 2024

Dumb Consumer Item of the Month: McMansions

Image from the McMansion Hell blog.


“This idea of extreme consumerism took off in the ’80s. It was a time of big hair, Madonna’s Material Girl— and great big houses.” 

- Kate Wagner, architecture critic


How do we define who we are in consumer societies? Mostly by the stuff we own.

And in that regard, the big three are

1. The car we drive,
2. The clothes we wear, and
3. The house we live in.

Basing our social standing on stuff instead of our value to the functioning of the community we live in leads to the rapid adoption of dumb consumer items.

It's consumerism gone wild.

Nothing highlights this deficiency more than the McMansion craze. 

Why McMansions? 

Because like the fast food they are named after, Mcmansions were mass-produced, cheaply made with questionable ingredients, not that beneficial for the greater society, and yet were still hungrily eaten up by consumers.

McMansions were most popular between the 1980s up to the Great Recession in 2008. 

Their popularity has decreased since then, although large, oversized homes remain the number one choice of many home buyers. 

In fact, by 2014, three times as many U.S. homes were built in the 3,000 to 3,999-square-foot range as in the under 1,400-square-foot range.

While some home buyers are opting for smaller homes, these down sizers remain a minority. For now, the tiny home movement is tiny.

A related website I visit from time to time is called McMansion Hell, written by a blogger with architectural training.

The witty and humorous McMansion critic, Kate Wagner, writes that these humungous homes are "an accumulation of deliberate signifiers of wealth, very much a construction with the secondary purpose of invoking envy, a palatial residence designed without much cohesion". 

Other less than flattering names used to describe such homes marketed to anyone able to get a mortgage large enough, are Persian palace, Garage Mahal, starter castle, Hummer house, tract mansion, Millennium Mansion, or executive home.

They are typically between 3,000 and 5,000 sq. ft. because building large homes is more profitable for builders than constructing smaller, less ostentatious alternatives. 

The McMansion Hell blog points out many other problems with these "look-at-me!" awkward abodes. 

"It’s not just a very large house", Wagner explains. 

“It’s also poorly constructed and poorly designed,” she says. 

“It’s a hodgepodge of several different architectural styles, lots of different extruding masses, windows that don’t match. It really looks like everything has been put together in a cobbled way.”

It’s basically an architectural expression of hyper-consumerism.” 

Infill Mcmansions look out of place compared with the existing neighborhood, and clash with the local architectural characteristics, which has made them unpopular and unwelcome in most communities.

The main problem is that these big cookie cutter homes were built as statements, rather than practical places to live. 

They are environmentally problematic, expensive to maintain, and are often built far from city centers on less expensive land, necessitating long commutes.

These biggest of bungalows are the very expensive equivalent of a super-sized fast food meal that makes your stomach hurt moments after completion.

We have covered several dumb consumer items on our blog, but few are as dumb, or as expensive, as the Mcmansion.

This one will be hard to top. 

But of course I will try for there is no shortage of dumb to be exposed when it comes to the toxic products of hyper-consumerism.




March 24, 2024

Revolution?



"The Siesta" by Paul Gauguin




You say you want a revolution?


Be kind.

Be compassionate.

Live simply.

Be an active producer, not a passive consumer.

Dance.

Learn, grow, evolve.

Acknowledge a greater power.

Eat wholesome foods made by your own hands.

Cooperate with others to make the world a better place.

Take a nap.


There's your revolution.



March 20, 2024

Last Day of Winter/First Full Day of Spring





Yesterday was the northern hemisphere's last day of winter, meaning today is the first full day of spring.

Fitting, then, that I saw my first robin in the yard yesterday morning. 

What an early welcome sight it was. 

Such signs are why one does not need a calendar, or the astronomical accuracy of knowing that the season changed at exactly 11:06 pm EDT last night.

Nature tells us all herself if we look for the signs.

On the last day of winter I went on a bike ride to the community mailbox which is 4km down the road from our home.

I returned along gravel roads and rails to trails paths that I have not been on for a few weeks. 

The conditions were good as the frost has come up out of the ground, and surfaces are drying and firming up. 

Perfect for biking again. 

If at all possible, I like to ride off paved roads along routes that are not as busy, and that go through the scenic backcountry.

On my ride I heard an owl call from in the woods. I stopped to listen. "Who - who, who! Who - who, who?"

Later I stopped to watch a robin (turdus migratorius) at the top of a tree. It was singing its heart-warming song over and over, meaning it is setting up its breeding territory.

The robins will start laying their first batch of eggs in late April and May.

There were geese in pairs in farmers fields, another sign that things are changing.

On this observation, some people say, "When geese are in flocks, winter still rocks. When geese are in a pair, spring is in the air."

I saw that water was running in brooks and streams, trickling away and quickening its pace on its short trip to the nearby ocean.

And I saw snowdrops emerging from the warming soil in a yard along our road a couple of weeks ago already.

And naturally, since it was the last day of winter, before I got home a few flakes of snow began to fall.

The snow may accumulate again at some point, but the coming spring is undeniable.

Nothing can stop it.

Goodbye winter.

Welcome warmer weather.

Today, the first full day of spring, is a good moment to start our garden planning and seed purchasing.

Let the season begin.




March 17, 2024

No Modern Stuff - Still Happy





The Amish have been walking away from modernity since arriving in North America hundreds of years ago.

In that time they have changed, but not dramatically. 

For the most part, they have:

- no electricity

- no iPhones

- no unnecessary medical procedures

- no computers

- no $70,000 Detroit automobiles

- no fashionable wardrobe

- no nails

- no heavy equipment

- no power tool built barns

- no nightclubs

- no Hollywood movies

- no TV

- no fast food

- no annual resort vacations


And yet, they are still healthy, and still happy. 

Miraculously, everything gets done.

Is there anything to learn from these simple living people? 

Is there is a lesson here for the "advanced", high consumption peoples of the planet who haven't found happiness in stuff and status?

Go Amish!

Or almost Amish.

Even a little bit Amish would be an improvement.






March 14, 2024

Envy For Sale





Consumerism. 

We have what everyone desires,

for a price.



Just look what you can get.

You can buy this or that, 

or anything you want. 

Anything you see!

Isn't that marvellous?



You can even buy things you can't see,

like a lifestyle,

happiness,

or a sense of well-being.



But best of all, 

you can buy the admiration

of friends, family,

neighbours and coworkers.



They will envy

your stereo,

your car,

your clothes,

your house,

or anything else you own that they want.



Consumerism.

What we are really selling

is envy.

Get some today.










March 12, 2024

Consumer Nations Not The Happiest



Newsflash! The citizens of hi-tech, rich consumer nations may not be the happiest people on the planet.

Wait, what? How can that be? 

We have the best stuff, and more of it. 

We have the best democracy money can buy. 

We have freedom of choice, movement and speech.  

We have more billionaires. 

We have the most marvellous hi-tech toys.

Therefore, we must be the happiest. 

Right?

Not so fast.

In a survey called The Mental State of the World in 2023: A Perspective on Internet-Enabled Populations, researchers uncovered some trends that run counter to this fairy tale.

The report begins,

Dear Reader,

This is our fourth annual Mental State of the World Report that provides a perspective on the Internet-enabled global population.

 

In focus this year is one key trend – that the dramatic decline in mental wellbeing that occurred between 2019 and 2020, and continued into 2021 through the COVID-19 pandemic, continues to persist with no sign of recovery.

 

The expectation may have been that once the lockdowns lifted and the threat of COVID-19 subsided that our collective mental health would begin a recovery towards its pre-pandemic levels.

 

However, the data across 64 countries argues otherwise – that the effects of diminished global mental wellbeing have become a new normal. 

 

Indeed, many of the shifts that the pandemic brought about persist, from an increase in remote work to increased use of single use plastics, and could all have a contributing effect that must be studied and understood.

 

As mental wellbeing has remained largely static across the world since 2021, so too have the rankings of countries.

 

At the top of the rankings are many Latin American and African countries while much of the core Anglosphere ranks in the bottom quartile.

 

With national wealth indicators such as per capita GDP negatively correlated with average mental wellbeing scores (see our 2021 report), this year we have made substantial progress in our understanding of why this is so.

 

Two key findings published in Rapid Reports in 2023 show that younger age of first smartphone ownership and ultra-processed food consumption are two major contributors to our mental health challenges.

 

In wealthier countries, the age of first smartphone ownership is much younger and ultra-processed food consumption much higher.

 

Other contributing factors are the relatively diminished family relationships in wealthier countries that are highlighted in our 2022 Annual Report.


 

While this may seem upside-down, many have been trying to bring attention to such things for a very long time.

Money and stuff does not make one happy past a certain point, we have been repeatedly warned, but few want to hear it.

The following are key insights from the report.

* Mental wellbeing remained at its post-pandemic low with yet again no sign of movement towards pre-pandemic levels.


* Younger generations, particularly those under age 35, saw the steepest declines in mental wellbeing during the Covid-19 pandemic while those over 65 stayed steady.


* As in previous years, several African and Latin American countries topped the country rankings, while wealthier countries of the Core Anglosphere such as the United Kingdom and Australia are towards the bottom.


These results may suggest that the response to the 2020 cold and flu season in the West was way, way worse than any virus, and that those negative effects could continue for years to come.


We may never recover from the lies, deceptions, and unnecessary, ineffective mandates perpetrated by what we were taught are democratic governments where the people have freedom of choice.

                 

In Canada, and much of the west, when concerned citizens came together to peacefully and legally protest all of that, they were cracked down upon in an unprecedentedly harsh manner.


It is not surprising that we were made mentally unwell by it all. 


And that is only one of the problems that we face.


On the other hand, Yemen, one of the poorest nations on the planet, ranked higher in mental wellness than wealthy UK (rated the second unhappiest country out of 71 countries surveyed).


Even Ukraine, currently being goaded into WWIII by the rich, sad countries highlighted in the report, ranked higher than the UK. 


The Dominican Republic topped the list as the world’s happiest country, followed by Sri Lanka in second place and Tanzania in third. 


All of the top ten countries were African, Asian, or Latin American nations.


The authors of the report conclude, 


Altogether this suggests that greater wealth and economic development does not necessarily lead to greater mental wellbeing, but instead can lead to consumption patterns and a fraying of social bonds that are detrimental to our ability to thrive.”


I wonder how many of us will listen this time? 


And of those who do, how many will change their lives for the better by turning their backs on the lies and propaganda of rank consumerism and poor governance?


Now is a good time for the unhappy Golden Billion to start building a better, happier, more simple story together for the benefit of themselves, and the entire human family.