Escaping the American Dream May 07 2014, 2 Comments

Image living without motors and without electricity!
I am currently reading Better Off by Eric Brende. The non-fiction story is of Eric and his wife moving to a community in which no electricity or modern machines are used. This off grid movement is nothing new and neither are books being written about it as shown by Thoreau's move to Walden Pond and the 1854 writing of "Walden - Life in the Woods". About half way through the book, I can already see the importance of obtaining a balance with machinery and technology in our lives. We rely on machines to simplify our tasks and ease our workloads but often times in addition to this, we are losing knowledge, skill and physical exercise in the trade.  One of my favorite chores he describes is washing clothes in a wooden washing bucket.  He found that it took 3 minutes of turning the handle for clothes to be washed clean. In this 3 minutes, he spoke of the physical strength he gained from turning and also the sense of accomplishment and enjoyment he felt as he was present and involved in each step of the activity. I realize that washing clothes by hand might not be the first activity that you want to embrace or the most realistic for today's schedules, but small adaptations can add this same sense of effort and pleasure. Activities such as grinding your own coffee beans, walking to the grocery store, building a fire, growing your own herbs and veggies, or going into the woods to camp for the weekend are all just as enriching and yet simple. 
In Eric's experiences, through working with his hands along with other people, it was clear how this natural interaction brought about happiness, bonding and solid relationships. His neighbors would stop in each day, initially to help out with something around the house or farm, or to bring by food, and these events brought about an organic communication and friendship between the individuals. Completing projects together made for better conversation and there was no pressure of trying to win over the other person's liking. In many of our modern social settings, we place such a huge emphasis on making sure the right questions are asked of each other, and the right answers are given, rather than just being ourselves. I think that it is essential to simplify our modern lives and bring back a few elbow grease activities into our hectic routines. It will help us to slow down and enjoy the simple.