Dream, Choose, Live: The Good Life

“I went to the woods because I wanted to live life deliberately.”

Henry David Thoreau

I think the first, most essential thing one must do to accomplish that is to build one’s own house as Thoreau did. He built from leftover scraps of an old shanty. We have many other choices.

The mere fact that when people come to the Village, they can’t buy a finished home means that every one of us shares that journey. The journey enriches each of us individually and collectively, as a community.  One’s home is the ultimate expression of self, one’s capacity to dream and do. Even if you hire a contractor and never lift a hammer, you will learn, mostly about yourself. So many choices, it can be overwhelming. In the process, you are forced to come to terms with your personal values. There is no faking it.

What is really important to me?

  • How big should my house be?
  • How much of my life, in the form of money that I have exchanged my time and effort for, should go into this house?
  • What portion should I allocate for other things that are important to me and my goals?
  • In my house, do I want to emphasize efficiency and low maintenance or esthetic beauty? What do those things mean to me? Can I have both?
  • Do I want my home to make a statement about me or is it enough that it satisfies just me?
  • If I am taking this journey with a spouse and children, how will we use this experience to bring us closer as we discover and satisfy what is uniquely us?
  • What can or should I do without to have the things I really want?
  • My home will be a refuge, but from what? From the noise of the city, or from the discomforts of nature?

The folks in this video made some highly unusual choices in an environment most people would consider extreme. Yet, their home is a creative expression of who they are and how they choose to live.  And it is beautiful.

As you watch this video, notice the many trade-offs they made. I like to think “sacrifice” is what you give up to get something better.  A deliberate life is one of conscious choice. If one knows oneself and chooses well, a personal paradise is the reward. That personal paradise is within reach of us all, but we must choose.

For those who love nature and the joy of sharing with others, the Village on Sewanee Creek has all the necessary elements to build your dream with a little help from some friends.

Walden Pond Updated – The modern “Good Life”

As a college student bout 40 years ago, I read Walden; or, Life in the Woods, by Henry David Thoreau. Like most people of my generation, I spent many years out of the woods, behind a desk, on planes, in endless meetings.  But, Thoreau’s message stuck.  From it, I learned ideas like

  • the importance of living deliberately
  • your stuff will own you, not the other way around
  • the true economics of Life
  • self-sufficiency is both possible and desirable.
  • the importance of living in and learning from nature.

After a career that paid well and exposed me to wealth and society, I have tried to live more simply and deliberately. In this excellent TED talk, Adam Baker does the best job that I’ve seen of recapturing Thoreau’s ideas for modern times. In the fragile, frenetic and uber-materialist world we live in, these ideas are more relevant than ever.

Inspiring experiences and memories are the rewards of a life well-lived. The stuff we accumulate gets in the way of real life.

If you are seeking to live “the Good Life” in the company of like-minded, well-informed, good and intelligent people, you might want to join us.  Inquire here

Moving toward something good

1967 U.S. postage stamp honoring Henry David T...

Image via Wikipedia

I recently had an inspiring conversation with someone who has had a long-standing interest in the Village. We talked about how fragile our world is on almost every front, from climate changes to economic melt-downs to rioting in the cities like London and Birmingham, to corruption in politics and big business. You all know the list.

Then the conversation turned to preparation. Why do we want a self-sufficient lifestyle? We both agreed that it is totally impossible to prepare for every doomsday scenario. We do our best to be pragmatic about our preparations. We keep our eyes wide open. We try not to be in denial, but also not in hiding. In the end, none of us know what challenges may come our way or when.  Meanwhile, we don’t want to over-react.
Fear can ruin your life.  It’s important that we continuously move towards something good, not just away from the things we fear may be bad.

I often think of the life Henry David Thoreau, the great poet and philosopher, described in his landmark book, Walden Pond. He moved there, not to flee anything, but to move toward a more simple, peaceful, self-assured life. He wanted the freedom that comes from stripping away the bonds that come with having too many possessions. They tend to own you, rather than the other way around. He wanted the peace that comes from knowing that your life is not dependent on the whims of someone else, a job or the economy, or … whatever. And he proved it possible IF you strip away the unnecessary.

Life without many of the things we had come to think of as necessities is actually pretty good. I no longer carry a cell phone. After realizing that we hadn’t turned on the TV for a couple of months, but were paying about $80 per month in satellite fees, we cut it off and haven’t missed it much for a couple of years. Life is slower now even though the seasons and years seem to be rushing by at an increasing pace. When I was a young executive on the fast track my greatest fear was being unemployed. Now I can’t imagine going back.

Reflecting on all the people who have visited us over the years, most of them at some time said how much they aspired to this simpler, freer lifestyle. Yet such a small percentage act on those desires. I think it’s all about how we deal with fear and desire. I think most people who look into the self-sufficient lifestyle are initially motivated by fear.  Unfortunately for them, it’s the same fear that keeps them from making a major change in their lives because everyone fears the unknown and big changes.

Hopefully, the people who do make the change are the ones who have made the mental commitment to move toward things they desire in life and let the things they are moving away from gently recede into the background.