Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Is a "simple life" really that simple?

Forest Gump so famously said, "Simple is as simple does."

I've been thinking a lot lately about the word simple, and some of the things Lynette and I are striving towards.  As some may know (and some may just learn now), we've spent a lot of time talking and thinking about the days when most of the meat, veggies, fruits, etc. we will consume will all come from animals we raise and food we grow.  Most of the energy we use will come from wood we grow or sunlight or wind we harness.  All of this is fairly new to us, and we're just trying to figure out how to grow and manage the stuff we can on the little room we have in the little house we rent in the city.  We take advantage of farmers markets for fresh produce, try to make stuff from raw ingredients as much as we can, and try to be conservative with the energy we use.

Some examples of food are: butter, pumpkin pie, corning the beef for St. Patrick's Day, etc.  There are many more things we've done just in simple recipes or plan to do in the future, but those were just some examples of things that many people refer to as "returning to a simple life."  Visions of the Amish, farmers, or the early pioneers usually come to mind when people talk about the simple life - sitting on a porch, drinking a glass of fresh cider, and eating some homemade pumpkin pie.  Sounds pretty great right?  Pretty basic and pretty...simple?

I find that moving towards this type of life is the antithesis of simple.  I can go to the store, buy a pound of butter, and be back at my place in 10 minutes.  It takes me 20 to make it, and I still have to go to the store to get the whipping cream.  The pumpkin pie....oh dear.  It took me two night's work to get everything made, for a total of roughly 6 hours.  Yes, some of that is me doing it for the first time, but there is a lot involved.  Wouldn't it just simpler to buy it from the store?  Yes, it's way simpler to just buy it, but of course you don't have control over what's in it, it's probably not as good, yadda yadda.  Why then do people always say they are moving towards a simpler life when they start doing more for themselves and relying less on a system to do it for them?

I'd been thinking about this for the last couple of weeks, and just happened to re-listened to Episode 635 of The Survival Podcast - Creating Your Vision of Liberty.  It's a great episode and I've listened to it at least half a dozen times, but it wasn't until this last time that I caught heard the comparison of simple and easy.  "Simple is something anyone can do. Easy is something that requires little effort."  It really was one of those epiphany moments!

Can everyone make their own butter? I think so.  Does that mean that everyone will? Of course not.  Does this mean that what we are doing is in any way better or worse than what someone else does? No way!  The reasons we want to gain this knowledge and these skills in gardening, animal husbandry, hunting, plant identification, food processing, canning/dehydrating/freezing/charcuterie, etc. is because in many ways we think these will lead to a better and more stable future.  I also believe that these are skills that are becoming 2-3 generations lost, and with that we loose a lot of our culture.

So is what we do and what we're striving to do in the future simple?  Yes, as a matter of fact it is.  Anyone can do any of the things we've done or have talked about doing.  Many people may not want to, but is irrelevant to the point that they can.

Is it easy though?  Not always.  I think it's very easy to make butter, but it does in fact take more effort than going to the store to buy butter; therefore I think it's easy, but someone else may not.  The pumpkin pie....not easy.  It took me a lot of effort and would have been exponentially easier if I had just gone to the store (or better yet a local baker) and bought a pie.

Like many times in life, taking the easy road, usually leads to a life without interesting sights to see, places to visit, and people to meet.  I look forward, every day to the simple life (as uneasy as it may be).  Hopefully we can do our part to inspire at least one person to look at the status quo within any aspect of life, realize that there are many means to an end, and find their own, simple, not necessarily easy path to get there.

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