Thursday, February 26, 2015

Money






Growing up in middle class suburbia, we never really struggled with money, but some years were tighter than others. We had our two cars, rented a house, went to the coast a couple times a year, ate out a few times a month...nothing extravagant. My mother seemed to funnel a bunch of her disposable income into treating my sister and I; toys, games, fast food etc. We were pretty spoiled growing up in the 80s and 90s.

I was never one to seek a career based on money; when I was starting college I pursued history and eventually settled on liberal studies for a well-rounded foundation. I used to kick myself for not going more specialized, but with my new lifestyle I don't really fret anymore about those hard-pressed college choices....it also helps I incurred zero college debt. During my time at Oregon State, I would work here and there doing security and writing game reviews, and I would promptly spend all the money I had on mostly videogames, Panda Express and Airsoft. Fun times... Fast forward to post-marriage co-habitation, and I ended up a few thousand in credit card debt...Playstation 2....big screen tv...high-end gaming PC....we couldn't sustain that for long. Over  time, I was forced into becoming more frugal because of my wife being disabled and unable to work. We really had to reign in our spending and I began researching ways to shift out of the rat race. I started to come across sites about living in an rv/van, and so we eventually moved into our own 28ft 5th-wheel.




I also had came across the Early Retirement Extreme site- that more than anything was the first real planting of the seed of frugality. The man behind ERE is Jacob Lund Fisker, and he basically saved 75% of his income and retired in about 5 years, using the  market to live off dividends.  Reading all the personal ERE journals of people liberating themselves from the rat race was truly remarkable,,,so many had kicked themselves for not doing so earlier, but it's an easy mistake. We come to expect certain standard of lifestyles, further cemented by the company we keep, the media, our workplace and so on. Monkey see, Monkey do..Now for my own situation at the time, I didn't have his sizable income(approx $60k) or his mastery of stocks, but what spoke to me was the absolute slashing of expenditures, and retooling of what one needs. From his manifesto:

"Comfort is having the sweat glands and metabolic tolerance to deal with heat and cold. It is not central heating or air conditioning which may fail or be unavailable. It is not plushy seats but a healthy back. Luxury is not expensive things. It is a healthy and capable body that moves with ease with no restraints because something is too heavy, too far, too hard, or too much. It is a content and capable mind that can think critically, solve problems, and form opinions of its own."-Jacob Lund Fisker

I also read "Your Money of your Life", which translated the true costs of employment and how absurd it is in many ways. They had developed numerous charts and tables breaking down all the costs associated with just maintaining the working status; things like car, gas, clothes, training etc, and seeing how at the end of it all, the costs were quite high. It began to hit home more and more that no one should be selling themselves for such poor gains...and to reject a lot of the cultural myths about "hard work."   Which led me to explore a concept known as "idling" How to be Idle. It explored areas of leisure, and refused the Puritanical work ethic that has driven many a person into an early grave. Still, I wanted to be an engaged person in the world; a change agent, and this didn't necessarily ring true to that aspect...but it did provide some good insights in a whimsical way.







After feeling like I reached my limit with the ERE  model, I naturally turned towards examples of simplicity. I came across Mark Boyle first, and then Suelo...and my mind was blown completely open. I remember spending weeks at work(graveyard shift) pouring over their sites, videos, comment sections, forums....inundating myself in that worldview. They both have great books too, Moneyless Manifesto(read it online FREE!) and The Man Who Quit Money(at your local library! 20, 000 copiers were donated by the publisher), respectively. Had I really found my way to escape from the work/spend treadmill...? In many ways, overcoming this can be like being shot into space. The strong" gravitational force" of our consumer culture puts enormous pressure on us...so to actually "break orbit" is a liberating experience...and allows one to look upon the world in a new light...just like from above the Earth.



"That is why his message resonates with so many people. His evident goodwill, care and compassion disarms us so that we can take in what he has discovered: going moneyless is a gateway to connection, intimacy, adventure, and an authentic experience of life. Far from being a path of sacrifice to qualify oneself as good, it is a path of joy and – dare I say it? – a path of wealth."-Charles Eisenstein in reference to Mark Boyle

"I did so on the basis of one major realisation: much of the suffering and destruction in the world – factory farms, sweatshops, deforestation, species extinction, resource depletion, annihilation of indigenous peoples and their cultures – were symptoms of a much deeper issue. From what I could see, only a people desperately unaware of their own intimate connection with the rest of life on this planet could behave in the ways we do, and only a people surrounded by powerful distractions could not feel the deep scars that this behaviour was causing. Not only was money enabling us to remain shielded from the horrors resulting directly from our consumption habits, it was also the most powerful distraction of all.

Do you think of what happens in order to get that oil to your tank? If not, may I ask why not? I am sure you care intellectually, but the disconnect means that such caring doesn’t penetrate into your heart, a penetration that can only fully impact when you see the tears of pain run down the face of an Iraqi father who has lost four members of his immediate family, just so that we can drive to the countryside and be a nature tourist for a day.

What struck me most about the self-righteous outrage after the riots and looting in Tottenham was the fact that those voicing most disgust live lives that are only possible because of our government’s looting of foreign lands, and our corporations’ looting of the oceans, the rainforests, and the hills that home the minerals that we need to produce the landfill of things that we base our everyday lives around. Of course the hypocrisy and absurdity of this was wasted on us all, for little other reason than the looting of the Earth has been culturally normalised, whilst the looting ofJJB Sports and Top Man has been culturally deamed a crime.n many of the small societies of the past, where everyone had access to all which was held for the benefit of the collective, theft was unheard of. If you had access to all the wealth of a community, why would you loot?-Mark Boyle Moneyless Manifesto


“It made Daniel think. The people who had the least were the most willing to share. He outlined a dictum that he would believe the rest of his life: the more people have, the less the give. Similarly, generous cultures produce less waste because excess is shared, whereas stingy nations fill their landfills with leftovers.”


“Credit and debt keep us fixated on the past and the future.”― Mark Sundeen, The Man Who Quit Money


"Maybe it's time to turn around the question of 'mooching.' How many people in the world who enjoy great material wealth also have an endless supply of love, wisdom, inner peace and happiness that they share freely with everyone around them? Daniel has made many brave decisions and great personal sacrifices in his life to follow Christ's teachings and trust the Holy Spirit to guide him. As a result, he has become a visionary and saintly person, a humble hobo who happens to have direct, broadband access to God. Now the rest of us get to 'mooch' off of his free internet wi-fi connection to heaven whenever he is around."-best friend Damian Nash

I set about culling expenses and working hours; started going more car-free and generally scaling back in 2012. During this time I was also going through a divorce, so it was quite the rough spell for me as I tried to transition into a better way of functioning. I puttered along for a few months longer, but I didn't really start hitting my stride until I moved to Portland in the spring of 2013. Here I inquired on Facebook about people who lived without money, and was told to check out a guy named Satya, at Food Not Bombs serving at Colonel Summers park. He has lived primarily without money for over 20 years, and actually lived with Suelo in California for stint or two, which was a funny conversation point when I had mentioned I had read the book and failed to connect the monk mentioned within with Satya-"I'm hanging out with a moneyless celebrity!(lol). I went to a few meditation sessions and FNB gatherings, but Satya and his core sangha left shortly after I met them to hunt for land for a full-time retreat/simple living community in Washington...Luckily for me, Suelo had made a clear intention of starting a Moneyless Tribe at the Montana 2013 Rainbow Gathering, and I felt an immense pull to meet him and possibly join the group. I made the journey out there in July, and it was a profound experience being with so many like minded people, However, I decided it wasn't the time and place to join them on adventures, but several folks did start the journey.


Satya's writings
Satya Vayu


The Moneyless Tribe becomes reality
Suelo and I

I came back from the Rainbow Gathering feeling pretty ecstatic about my experience...and thinking of a way to join the tribe. I was in a relationship at the time, and she wasn't really on board with going to such extremes, so I struggled for several months in the Fall of 2013 with going deeper into this lifestyle, while also honoring the relationship. We would ultimately part ways in Summer 2014, but we still remain good buds today. I gained many insights from our time together, one of which is that it is a tough path between wanting to seek out warmth, comfort and affection, and perhaps forging ahead into harsher territories, like living virtually moneyless. There was a lack of synergy in some respects to the level of simplicity we both wanted, and I appreciate her illuminating that with our interactions. While I obviously don't want just an echo chamber for a partner, having someone who resonates on these matters became more and more clear to me.


I also must say I really dug Walden on Wheels by Ken Ilgunas. Ken stealthily lived in his van while attending grad school at Duke! One passage really stuck with me, one talking about the concept of needs versus wants...or as he put it, "wouldn't it be nice..." line of reasoning. He says that a big trap consumers fall into is focusing on upgrading everything....kiddie pool just won't cut it this year...build a giant one in the backyard...this car is too old, this bike is too clunky, tv too small etc etc. By constantly seeking and supporting this feeling of lack, it reinforces itself. By primarily living without money, I have mitigated the link between getting my wants/needs met in this way...I don't browse Ebay or Amazon, I don't window shop down the trendy gentrifying streets here in Portland...I only use money when it is absolutely necessary. If there is no way around it or it will impact my well being in an overtly negative way, then I will relent and use monies. For example I've been hunting around for some new Keen-type enclosed sandals, and all I currently have are death-trap slip on ones. They are fine for riding around, but anything more rugged will require some better equipment. I could fashion my own. luck out in a free box score, receive as a gift, or lastly go buy a used pair from a local outdoor shop(NextAdventure <3).






I am a member of the “career-less generation.” Or the “screwed generation.” Unlike previous generations, the members of my generation won’t get jobs and respectable wages straight out of high school, let alone college. We don’t have the means to buy homes and start families in our twenties. We’re the first generation in a while who will be less well off and less secure than their parents’. Strangely, I seemed more okay with this than my parents. Not being able to afford an above-ground swimming pool and a kid wasn’t some heartbreaking tragedy to me.”― Ken Ilgunas, Walden on Wheels: On the Open Road from Debt to Freedom
“Discomforts are only discomforting when they’re an unexpected inconvenience, an unusual annoyance, an unplanned-for irritant. Discomforts are only discomforting when we aren’t used to them. But when we deal with the same discomforts every day, they become expected and part of the routine, and we are no longer afflicted with them the way we were. We forget to think about them like the daily disturbances of going to the bathroom, or brushing our teeth, or listening to noisy street traffic. Give your body the chance to harden, your blood to thicken, and your skin to toughen, and you’ll find that the human body carries with it a weightless wardrobe. When we’re hardy in mind and body, we can select from an array of outfits to comfortably bear most any climate.”― Ken Ilgunas, Walden on Wheels: On the Open Road from Debt to Freedom

Around the same time (Summer 2013), I met my buddy Mike, who was living off his bike at the time, and I was totally enamored with this way to "live in the cracks", as we have come to call it. With a touring setup(4 panniers) and trailer, he had 90% of his worldly possessions on him at all times, the rest were in some tubs/packs at a friends house. Mike would stealth deploy his hammock in various places around town, while also crashing at people's houses, including my own, from time to time, and devoted a lot of his time to community, specifically Food Not Bombs. He had done the corporate tech thing, made good money, but at some point became fed up with it all, and just dropped out altogether, living in a tent in a backyard, using his bike as his mighty steed. We resonated on many levels, mainly because he was highly educated, rational, politically/ecologically/socially aware, unlike many pie-in the sky uber-idealists I had come across. I actually still had my car at the time, and Mike really helped give me that final push to sell it to be truly car free-one of the best decisions of my life.

I started kitting out my own bike, getting front/rear racks, waterproof rear panniers, front low slung Arkels(from Mike), and cycling everywhere. I like to roll heavy too, with one of my front bags full of bike related gear while the other having a change of clothes/toiletries/wallet etc. I keep the rear bags empty most of the time for storage....a really splendid move in the free box season here in Portland! By traveling loaded all the time, it also builds more strength and it becomes easy after awhile, so that when you go on longer trips, the load is pretty normalized. I am setup to live off my bike if needed, and plan on doing more extensive touring trips someday. It truly is a great model that has been established...just like the eternal couchsurfer, a person who is "always in tour mode" can acclimate very well- stay nimble!


Mike aka "The Khemosabe"
Bike move for a friend
I don't use the backpack anymore.
All My stuff fits on my bike!(Rob Greenfield)
Car-Free Movement

 I still clearly remember a conversation Mike and I had about "precious life energy." We trade so much of our finite, sacred energy for money via work, that it's criminal that most people don't even recognize this exchange is a rotten deal. Made worse even still, the majority of our labors are not in ideal or fulfilling positions, and often  cause egregious harm to both ourselves and the planet. A number of classic examples come to mind; the factory worker who builds cars, the miner excavating coal getting black lung, the sub-prime mortgage lender ruining lives...capitalism is rife with trauma.  Even jobs that are usually associated with rewarding fields like teaching, caregiving etc, are often underpaid, under resourced, stuck in bureaucratic hell, with harsh job security, long hours and high cases of burnout. A recent article from Charle's Eisenstien speaks to this great malaise:

Mutiny of the Soul
We recognize that we are here on earth to enact a sacred purpose, and that most of the jobs on offer are beneath our dignity as human beings. But we might be too afraid to leave our jobs, our planned-out lives, our health insurance, or whatever other security and comfort we have received in exchange for our divine gifts. Deep down, we recognize this security and comfort as slaves' wages, and we yearn to be free.

When you find the right life, when you find the right expression of your gifts, you will receive an unmistakable signal. You will feel excited and alive. Many people have preceded you on this journey, and many more will follow in times to come. Because the old world is falling apart, and the crises that initiate the journey are converging upon us. Soon many people will follow the paths we have pioneered. Each journey is unique, but all share the same basic dynamics I have described. When you have passed through it, and understood the necessity and rightness of each of its phases, you will be prepared to midwife others through it as well. Your condition, all the years of it, has prepared you for this. It has prepared you to ease the passage of those who will follow. Everything you have gone through, every bit of the despair, has been necessary to forge you into a healer and a guide. The need is great. The time is coming soon.-Charles Eisenstien


Man … sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then he dies having never really lived.– Dalai Lama




Mike and I agreed that we must safeguard ourselves against this illicit exchange, and realize that we should aim for better ways than just relenting to the grind. He also said that people come to want a reward for all their moneyed efforts, which gives rise to the live for the weekend syndrome and getting a return on your priceless time/energy investment. The only problem is that ultimately spending money cannot really bring lasting happiness, so it's a flawed system from the start. Studies have shown that beyond a basic level of comfort(food/shelter/clothing), the rates of happiness do not increase much.  I wish no one to have to carry the burden of toil, By modeling a different a way, others can hopefully alleviate some of their economic anguish. Satya puts it as "aiming towards the divine",,,,where we can be most impactful, and do the most beautiful thing possible in a courageous, mindful , whole-being way. Turn away from the numbing mundanity, and move towards the exceptional. Eisenstien in his follow-up book to Sacred Economics, adds his own thoughts on this:


"Addiction, self-sabotage, procrastination, laziness, rage, chronic fatigue, and depression are all ways that we withhold our full participation in the program of life we are offered. When the conscious mind cannot find a reason to say no, the unconscious says no in its own way.”

" Is it too much to ask, to live in a world where our human gifts go toward the benefit of all? Where our daily activities contribute to the healing of the biosphere and the well-being of other people?"

“The world is on fire! Why am I sitting in front of my computer? It is because I don’t have a fire extinguisher for the world, and there isn’t a global 911 to call.

“The state of interbeing is a vulnerable state. It is the vulnerability of the naive altruist, of the trusting lover, of the unguarded sharer. To enter it, one must leave behind the seeming shelter of a control-based life, protected by walls of cynicism, judgment, and blame.”

-excerpts from Charles Eisenstein, The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible



Happiness_economics




So...apparently persons can  thrive, while being considered in "poverty".,,? I  dislike the latter word...because it's relative, and often from the perspective of a first world industrialized demographic. The concept of "lack" is key here...what one truly needs to prosper...and various forms of coveting a "better" life thrown into the mix. For countless generations, people on the Earth lived in relative harmony with nature and others...yet in the blink of an eye time wise, we have all but destroyed our planet and sowed atrocious levels of suffering in the name of capitalism, and the push  towards more and more "prosperous growth." Many indigenous and agrarian people are now forced to abandon their simple lives, and now must plug into the giant machine to survive, illustrated well in the Manufactured Landscape video below. Variations on this proccess happend to nation states during the first Industrial revolution as well, forcing people into cites and off the land.

                                                                      POVERTY






Thankfully, many wisdom practitioners have given us a wealth of tools to forge a new way of life.  A vast array of concepts are at our disposal, from the gift economy, Ubuntu philosophy, time banks, sharing economy, permaculture, localization, participatory economics(PARECON), basic income/negative income tax, and much much more! (I implore you to read The Moneyless Manifesto, as Mark goes into many alternatives, specifically here)






"The moneyless economy is a model of economy that enables its participants to meet their physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual needs, both collectively and individually, on the basis of materials and services being shared unconditionally (i.e. no explicit/ formal exchange). Ideally (but not necessarily) these materials would be procured within walking distance of the people who benefit from them. Such an economy would be carried out in a way that considers the needs of all life (and future generations of life) in that geographical region, giving equal consideration to all, and seeing it as an interdependent whole whose overall health is inextricably linked to that of its component parts, and vice versa."-Mark Boyle, Moneyless Manifesto


"A minimum wage employee has to tithe 50% of his wages for the right to sleep without being a vagrant. This is an enormous tax levied on the working class, a brutally regressive tax that bears a strong resemblance to feudalism.

A UBI should provide enough money for a human being to have all the things that he could provide himself in nature, in a world that isn’t divided into centuries-old hereditary land claims. A UBI should provide enough money for food, shelter, heating, and a bit extra to trade for random necessities and shortfalls. $1000 a month per individual is a good starting point. This is not charity, this is a refund to the brutal regressive tax that is extracted from everyone who didn’t inherit sizable property holdings. No one should have to perform $500 of labor for some hereditary landlord every month simply for the right to lay down and sleep. In the mid-to-late 20th century, when wages were high and capital ownership was more equitably shared, the tax on being alive was not quite so burdensome and regressive. But seeing as we have moved to the era of corporate welfare, massive wealth disparity, and laughably low wages, this tax has become more than the working class can sustain. UBI provides a way to simply and directly refund this tax."-Tom Radtke


This coming weekend I will be attending the Economics of Happiness conference, hosted at Portland State University, where much of these concepts and very people I have brought up will be there collaborating and growing in wisdom. I'm very honored to attend, and received admission for free via scholarship because of my lifestyle.


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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and thanks for sharing these resources! What an awesome read!

    ReplyDelete