Little Ways Of Life
The old farmers I know all have told me at one time or another that they do not ever buy what they can not pay for. They know they are dinosaurs, and this is not the way of the world any longer, but I have heard their beliefs and they have often rattled around in my head.
In many ways, America is a fear machine, and the machine is run on the idea that we need more and more things all of the time, as I got older, I realized there will never be a point where I have enough of the things they tell me I must have to life safely in this world.
Last year we canceled our TV cable contract. It cost a lot of money and we never watched it. I always thought I had to have a TV. I don't.
Last month I canceled all of my credit cards. I've decided that technology is precious and valuable, but that a healthy and peaceful mind, a meaningful life, a spiritual life, increasingly depends on making hard choices about information, money and devices. We can complain all we want about e-mails and social media, but if we want our lives back to any degree, we will have to actually change.
Our world is becoming as complex and stressful as it is angry, and I mean to deal with it in a positive and serious way. I embrace change, but I want to control it, and to deal with it in a rational way. I don't wish to spend much of my life arguing with people or defending myself.
And I don't wish to spend the rest of my life, or most of any day checking e-mails and texts, answering hundreds of Facebook messages that are mostly about nothing, fending off invasive personal messages from strangers, getting e-mail bulletins from credit card companies every time I buy something – or don't. I don't wish to be asked every time I buy something how the service was, and if I was satisfied, and told how much I am valued by corporations that care nothing about me, or if I liked the packaging.
This morning, a dozen messages from total strangers asking me, "how are you?" If I answered them all, I would not be good.
I don't wish to return to the isolated life of the author, when nobody could reach me but my agent. Nor will I fully accept the dimensions and repercussions of the new way of the world, the avalanche of information, advice, bad news and spam, of strangers and judges, much of it disturbing and unwanted, that has invaded my life and my consciousness and tested my discipline and character.
Everyone around me seems angrier and more tense and I think I know why. Too many things are plugged into their heads. Facebook has advanced the idea that we can message anybody about anything at any time. I don't like this idea. It is teaching people bad manners – to be invasive, presumptuous, judgmental and insensitive. To grieve and be soothed in public. And to learn how to rude and hostile.The Internet has taught us to only talk to each other, and to hate people who are different. Even the Pope is caught up in the American madness, every word measured against what the left and the right would like to hear.
They say if you are a public person, you are asking for it. I say nuts to that, I am responsible for my life.
Canceling the TV cable l offerings was pretty easy. Maria and I have never watched much TV. If we want to see a movie or other kind of program, we can stream it on the Ipad or the Iphone. Mostly, we spent the evenings talking and reading. Sometimes blogging. Neither of us can tolerate the sound of the TV blaring all night, or even for much of it. It is shocking how little I miss it, I had a TV my whole life.
The credit cards were a bigger deal. I used to run up big credit card bills, but have not for some years. I was drowning in notifications, solicitations, survey requests, special offers, transfers. And owed money. I got my first credit card in 1972, and I was quite proud of myself. Somebody else worried about the bills. I was always a person who bought things easily and thoughtlessly. I changed that bad habit a few years ago, and found there is always more to do. My life has always been crowded and cluttered with junk. I am working on that.
But sometimes we make our own junk, we buy the great lie that we must live in fear and buy our way out.
I have come to believe e-mail, social media and text messages cause stress and in some people, anger and disconnection. I think the Internet, for all the good it does, is making people angry and incestuous. Too many messages, too much information, too many arguments, too much corporate bad news, too much outrage, too many notifications and alerts for the mind to absorb. I am a creative person, I want to leave room in my mind for my work.
The angry and quarrelsome people of the world, the people eager to mind my business or tell me what to do, or tell me why I am wrong, this is a part of the new way of living. So are the nice people, it should be said.
In recent months, I've taken to heart my desire to live a simpler and more considered life. I am still on the hero journey, I expect to die there. I wish to consider what it is I really need and want and love. I will never return to a hollow life.
I want to heed the call of Pope Francis to love our sister the earth, and to live in harmony with my fellow humans. I think about what I waste and discard. What do I really need to be content and productive? I think I have most of it right now. Money brings neither happiness nor security, that is the biggest lie of all.
As I grow older, I don't care to be wracking up big bills, to fret at the end of the month, to buy things I don't actually have to have, to fill up the house with boxes and stuff.
Now, I think about how much money I have in the bank before I buy anything. I never used to know what I had in the bank, that was always somebody else's job. I've lost the appetite for buying things. It's a big load off of my mind. It feels good to know what I have, the old farmers were right, it is sweet to live that way. I have what I need, and I can wait for what I need if I have to. I find my life is more peaceful, I feel it is more under control, there is less stress in it, more time to think and feel. I am still overwhelmed with information pouring into my life that I didn't ask for and don't want, but that is a separate issue. It can no longer be resolved simply and easily.
I will have to think about it and work on it. I want fewer messages in my life.
I check the news twice a day now, in the morning, sometimes in the evening. I don't like much of any of it, I find it has little to do with the reality of my life. A curious thing about the hateful Trump, he was sometimes addictive. But I gave up a 30-year valium habit six years ago, I had no trouble giving Trump up a week or so ago, someone told me he is like a fart, the smell will blow away.
The truth is, I don't need all of the things they tell me I need. I don't want all of the things they tell me I want. I feel as if I am taking responsibility for my own life, protecting the space around my head, finding quiet and solitude in a shrieking world. This afternoon, I put my earphones on and sat with my very smart phone, a technology I ironically cherish. I closed my eyes and listened to music and was no longer lost, but was found.