Wednesday, August 11, 2004


There's something wrong here. There's all this talk about sustainability regarding our natural resources, the way we farm, the way we harvest energy, the way we fish, the way we treat our planet in general. But, I think we're missing something else. I don't think we're even living sustainably.

No, I don't physically exhaust myself each day by dragging a plow over 40 acres of land, or hunting for meat or gathering berries, or chewing hides into useable leather for clothes and shoes, or harvesting grain, or herding sheep... I sit on my ass all day in front of a computer. For 8 hours, plus or minus, I sit and I "develop information" for other people to use so that they can better sit on their asses for 8 hours, plus or minus, doing other things to perpetuate this whole ass-sitting thing.

It sort of sounds like we have it good compared to the hide-chewers, right?

But we don't. We sit in a tightly clustered group of people who are vying for raises, promotions, advancement, acknowledgement, praise, whatever. We sit with our backs open in a cube system, listening to every conversation everyone has with their father, sister, or gynecologist's receptionist. We stare at a screen that makes our eyes hurt and gives us headaches and bombards us with radiation that probably isn't so bad for us, but I still remember my mother saying, "DON'T SIT SO CLOSE TO THE TV!!", so I have questions. We are measured on a scale of productivity that is slippery to define and highly subjective at best. We are held to standards of personality that allow little room for creativity. Our privacy is non-existent and our anxiety is rising.

But, we make a lot of money, don't we?

Don't we?

Well, yeah, but I don't know about you, I have to spend it, too. Almost all of it. Sometimes more of it. I have to actually *buy* my food, and I can't chew hides into leather for shoes, although I can buy them cheaply at Target if things are tight. They're probably not as comfortable as the chewed ones, I'm guessing, but hey, they'll fall apart soon enough and I'll buy another pair. I have to buy my clothes and pay for electricity and water and gas, and pay to drive the miles to work because there's no way I could be lucky enough to live within walking distance of any place that would pay me well enough to afford a house. I have to pay my mortgage. I'm almost done paying for my education that I finished many years ago, whoo hoo. Partay.

I have to pay for my doctor, well, what's not covered by insurance which I also have to pay for. I have to go to the doctor a lot because, well, the job causes me stress and I have pains in my shoulders and elbows which may be related to sitting in front of a computer all day with my arms on my desk and my ass in a chair.

I'm not really putting any money away because I'm paying off debts that I incurred when I couldn't find a job for awhile, which caused me lots more stress and created tension for my family, making spending time with them additionally stressful. Even now that I have a job, and I'm paying off those debts, I still come home tired and don't have a lot of energy left with which to enjoy my family. And, it's not that I'm physically tired, I'm just drained from spending 8 hours in a row doing something only vaguely satisfying that has no direct benefit to my life.

I eat terribly and expensively because again I'm too tired to come home and cook a healthy meal. The ass that I sit on all day is increasing in size because prepared food is rarely balanced, healthy, or of normal proportions.

I have to pay to exercise.

Someone tell me why we do this again?

There are a lot of days that I'd rather be hitching up a plow harness around my shoulders or keeping a vegetable garden, some chickens and a goat, living among peach trees or apple trees or orange trees. There are a lot of days when I wish I had energy for more than just flipping through channels trying to find something less offensive than "Reality TV" on to bide my time until sleep. There are a lot of days that I'd rather be creating a future instead of saving for one.

I just don't feel like I'm living sustainably. Hell with the forests and the oil and the overfished rivers. I don't feel like I'm doing right by my own body.

I take vitamins because I eat fast food. I have to spend extra time in my day to exercise because I don't do anything more than move my fingers around at work. I breathe terrible air because I live in a city where you can't possibly walk or bike anywhere, and even if you did, no one else would, so you'd be biking through lousy air.

What the hell are we doing to ourselves?

And why?

What's with the push push push? Drive drive drive? Hurry hurry hurry? Why do we live to work instead of work to live? What's with the endless cycle of discontent? What's with "more than enough" being the new "enough"? Why aren't people like Ken Lay, Andrew Fastow and his wife, Bill Gates, and any other CEO making more than 40 times what their lowest paid employee makes satisfied?

What do I want? I want to be happy. I don't care about making a lot of money. I just want to do something that I'm passionate about. Something where at the end of the day I am exhausted but proud of my accomplishments. So I live in a smaller house or an apartment. So I don't eat out every night. So maybe I don't have every cable station known to man.

But, maybe I'm not so tired so I can hang out in the evening and do things like play music, or talk about politics, or read a book. Maybe I can even live so sparsely that I can take a little time to travel. Maybe I don't need to stay in a really nice hotel. Maybe the important thing is what you see and who you talk to and what you learn when you travel, and not the amount of silk stretched out in your accommodations.

Am I nuts? Sometimes I feel like an outcast. Even my own mother tells me that I can't give up my high paying job to take a lower paying job that may give me more life satisfaction because I'll soon discover that I'll "Need The Money More Than I Think." But, really, all I end up with when I actually have all that extra money is stuff that collects dust and a sleep deprivation problem.

(Don't get me wrong. At the moment this is purely theoretical because I have a gazillion dollars in credit card debt from being unemployed for much longer than I wanted to be, and I can't possibly give up my high paying job unless I win the lottery or you all get together and send money to my paypal account, which I'll let you if you really want to.)

Anyway, EVEN at a theoretical level, I can't get many people to even understand what I mean.

Doesn't anyone else have this fantasy? The one about finding a piece of land not too far from a town with a few reasonable jobs. The one where you grow your own veggies and fruit, and you raise a few chickens for eggs and the occasional beheading. The one where you have few sheep to sell their wool and maybe a goat or two named Chloe and Daphne for some specialty hand-crafted chevre. (Ok, that's not my fantasy, that's a friend of mine's. I borrowed it for literary purposes.) The one where you share the land with a few other like-minded friends who grow different things and raise different animals and have different specialties. Friends who've learned how to blacksmith, or can build furniture, or make beer, or stitch up a nasty cut. The one where you live and share your goodies and good conversation together.
The one where you get to keep your cell phone, broadband access and maybe even netflix.

So I'm a little spoiled.

I don't know. Maybe it's just me. Maybe it's totally ridiculous. But I still think that a subsistence commune with a few good friends would make getting up in the morning a whole lot easier than getting up to go sit on my ass with my back exposed and worrying about the price of stock.

It's just not sustainable...


Karen said...

So in addition to being apatheist, you also want to be... techno-Amish?

xiki said...

um, yeah. You've never heard of the apatheistic techno Amish?

You do know that you're one of the people I'm thinkin' should be in the commune with me. You and Andy, Eliz and Ang... Think of the choral possibilities...

Tho' I can't see liz shearing sheep. I mean, I can, but it makes me giggle.

xiki said...

It just occurred to me that I had edited out the part where I said, "Hey, I'm not Amish..." and replaced with with "I'm a little spoiled." See? *That's* why you're invited to my commune.

Anonymous said...

[from Andy]

My cousin lives in a house on Bainbridge Island, off Seattle, that her husband did most of the construction on. He's a carpenter by trade. She practices a less-invasive form of Chiropractic -- Biogeometric Integration -- a few days a week and looks after their two kids. Don't know if they're still doing something similar, but in their previous house, they kept a chicken coop and got fresh veggies from the farm commune across the street.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I *so* could shear a sheep if I wanted, so don't go dissing my sheap shearing capabilities.


- blurker gone bad

xiki said...

So, are you in? And if so, what skills (aside from six-sigma black belt sheep shearing) will you bring to the commune?

Anonymous said...

Put me on the list! Not so good at gardening, but a whiz at laundry. We *will* have washing machines, right?


xiki said...

I'll add that to my Techno-Amish list. Cell phones, Broadband, Netflix, and Washing machines. Anything else? Anyone?