Sunday, August 9, 2009

Simplicity and our Faith

Mahatma Gandhi, in a letter to Jawaharlal Nehru, 5 October 1945.
"I believe that if India, and through India the world, is to achieve real freedom, then sooner or later we shall have to go and live in the villages – in huts, not in palaces. Millions of people can never live in cities and palaces in comfort and peace. Nor can they do so by killing one another, that is, by resorting to violence and untruth. I have not the slightest doubt that, but for the pair truth and nonviolence, mankind will be doomed. We can have the vision of that truth and nonviolence only in the simplicity of the villages." (Personal Choices Under Corporate-State Rule, by Jeff Knaebel,, August 8, 2009).

Simplicity. It was once believed by me to be the rallying cry of the Socialist. I would point to my friends that if we didn't have people buying stuff, none of us would have work. We'd all starve. What a naïve belief I had!

I still struggle with certain aspects of the concept. The idea of returning to pre-industrial existence is scary, to say the least. A lot of people died while working in their fields just to live a subsistence lifestyle. Some didn't even make that. Whole families would virtually starve, until "Pa" would up and move to the city to find work. The small agrarian communities were always under threat of starvation - truly living "paycheck to paycheck" without the benefit of one.

This year my family really went heart and soul into gardening. We have three large plots at the community garden, as well as a small plot in our mobile home park, as well as more than a dozen large planting containers in which plants and flowers flourish. We are reaping the benefits of fresh vegetables, like green and waxed beans, greens, hot peppers, and zucchini. We also live in an area of Michigan where cherries, apples, peaches, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and grapes are in plentiful supply. Truthfully, it's less work to go and buy that which is produced by someone else. It has been very hard work maintaining all of our gardens, while I have continued to work and my wife has continued to home educate our 8 children.

We have discussed getting out of debt, but to do so quickly would require me working a second job, or that my newly-formed freelance writing career take off. Being out of debt is essential, in my opinion, to survive the upcoming economic crisis. We'll either be out of debt, or bankrupt. The former is preferable.
Taking a second job, or making money in the writing career both require time and effort on my part that takes away from the simplicity of gardening. I remain trapped in the dollars-for-doing paradigm even as a freelance writer and e-books author. I rely on others to buy my product. If they do not have the money to buy it, I make no money. In addition to this, even if I do sell e-books aplenty, the dollars which I receive as payment become more and more worthless.

Another reason why we wanted to get out of debt, besides the obvious economic benefit, was so that we could get out of our current living condition, a double-wide manufactured home in a trailer park, and move to the country. Acreage would allow us to expand the production of our own food. Two problems arise: moving back towards a basic subsistence lifestyle, and how do we pay for acreage with a large enough home for 10 people? Neither is answered easily, and the answer is even more difficult to implement.

There is no doubt that things will get worse - the Soviet Union, Cuba, and North Korea are proof of this. China and India have become new economic powerhouses, but no thanks to their oppressive style governments. It has largely been a result of Global Corporatism - which is not necessarily conducive to freedom-living and simplicity.

What should the average Joe do then in this economy? Should we "stay the course" and hope to hang on as long as possible, making only minor changes along the way? Or, should we leave the country, hoping to find a more simple existence where government is too weak to bother with us. The problem there is it is only a matter of time before they do bother us. Just ask the Sudanese Christians. After years of living in remote places in their country in peace, the government decided it needed more slaves. So much for peace.

Are things really that bleak? As a Christian, I cannot help but believe that they are not. No matter how bad something seems, God can always use it for good, and make good the result. Even in the simplest things that frustrate us, in retrospect we find that things worked out okay. No amount of worrying helped the situation, and planning was good but "the Lord directs his steps."

My answer to the current economic crisis is simple: the early Christians served no god or authority but Christ alone. Yet, they travelled the Roman roads and used the Roman coinage to survive. We can do no less. We can make changes where we can: growing as much of our own food as possible; buy locally from other farmers/gardeners; buy only the essentials for living (I list computers and internet service as essential due to the type of economy that we live in); and get out of, and avoid, debt. Stay put (even if it's in a mobile home park). If you have land, consider some kind of home that you can build yourself, or with the help of others who you can then help with theirs. Don't buy into the "lie of the American Dream." The bankers are a cruel slave master, with the guns of the government at their disposal. We are Christians, we dare only fight in self-defense.

The scriptures tell us "to live at peace with all men," and I believe this means in every economic situation. If we are always at odds with our neighbors, rather than being gentle and charitable, we have no witness. We are then only crashing cymbals or banging gongs. We must love, for that is the greatest thing.


~Katherine said...
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Freedom from Tyranny said...

Have you ever checked out Virgil Vaduva's blog called "riches to straw"? It's found at

He and his wife are in a long term project for building a strawbale home - same basic concept as a cob home, with a slight variation.

Check it out and we'll be in touch.