Monday, August 25, 2008

My Ethical Roots, concluded

Ok, so this 3-part saga has been too long in the telling. I started with my frugal childhood and then moved on to my years as an impoverished student and (very) small scale environmentalist. For our first ten years of marriage one or the other of us was in graduate school. To be quite honest, it was probably inevitable that a former costume designer and a carpenter who both loved to cook would end up wearing handmade clothing, eating homemade food and surrounded by hand-crafted furniture. What that really means is that both of us got a great deal of satisfaction from making things. Then we had two years of life with two incomes and no kids before embarking on parenthood in 1982. Goodbye, disposable income; hello frugality.

Even as it became easier to afford things (and harder to resist child-generated consumption), I've fought a continuing battle for a simpler, more attentive brand of consumption. I've resonated with the voluntary simplicity, local food and DIY movements because they are consistent with my lifelong values.

Deciding to go public as a blogger was a big step for me, because until the summer of 2007, I had pretty much kept my personal journey separate from my academic pursuits. But something shifted for me one day and I realized that I needed to put my scholarly nature to work to support my everyday living, and to share that story with other people who might be trying to move in the same direction. Ultimately, it's not about consumption; it's about living. In the words of Alfred North Whitehead:

"-The secret to happiness lies in knowing this: that we live by the law of expenditure. We find the greatest joy not in getting, but in expressing what we are. There are tides in the ocean of life, and what comes in depends on what goes out. The currents flow inward only where there is an outlet. Nature does not give to those who will not spend: her gifts are merely loaned to those who will not use them. Empty your lungs and breathe, run, climb, work, and laugh: the more you give out, the more you shall receive. Be exhausted and you shall be fed. People do not really live for honors or for pay; their gladness is in not taking and holding, but in doing, the striving, the building, the living. It is a higher joy to teach than to be taught–it is good to get justice, but better to do it–fun to have things, but more fun to make them. The happy person is the one who lives the life of love not for the honors it may bring, but for the life itself."

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