Between voluntary simplicity or even intentional poverty and nomadically independent “designed” or jet-setting luxury lifestyles, there seems to be a vast space of ordinary lives with little room for change towards the better, little space for personal positive influence.
The hunt after a four hour workweek enabling one to live everywhere on one’s own terms, good as it sounds, is just too exhausting.
Simply having the money sounds good but can hardly be a plan (and its effects on life satisfaction are more questionable than they appear).
And who’d want to go poor just for the heck of it, especially if one’s looking for a decent life, has kids, and all that?
Even in the middle of an ordinary life, whether it’s become more challenging or is still looking good (and increasingly, it’s not looking too good), a little more control and a little more happiness would certainly be a good thing, though.
Well, if a look at personal development has made us argue that there’s always choice, considering these extremes of extra-ordinary (outside the norm) lives – and actually, also an old idea for the average ones – shows a central driver of better living which we seem to have increasingly forgotten: the very act of living.
It must sound a bit crazy. We are alive, struggling or thriving enough as it is, without a need to be told we need to learn to live, right?
Well, we exist, we struggle to make a living, we breathe and drink and eat and work and relax and sleep – but we don’t often give it quite that much attention. Hell, people use their cell phones during sex.
Careful, attentive, intentional living. That is what we forget and what drives better living.
The skill necessary even just for gaining a little sense of having a grip on life, taking good care of oneself and one’s home, balancing one’s accounts, has gone missing to such an extent that there are, finally, calls to Bring Back Home Ec.
Making do, mending clothes, repairing stuff, preparing food that is affordable and nourishing, not cheap in every negative way, investing one’s resources (whether time and attention or money) as it’s possible and brings the most – these are all things that have always been important and will, in one shape or another, pretty much always be important. They are the middle ground of life.
Should things go to hell, economically or environmentally, we’ll need to find food and nourish ourselves sufficiently well. Do things continue with comparative affluence and a food environment of only too much, we still need to find what actually nourishes us well. (Seeing the problems we, bodily, have with the surfeit of calories and ‘food products,’ it’s even more important under these “good” circumstances.)
Same with balancing our income and expenses, our time, our relationships, our households…
Whatever the circumstances, “man does not live by bread alone.” We don’t go looking for social connections, desire “self-actualization” and crave a meaning, a story, of our lives when we have satisfied the lower-down elements of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. We always need more than just survival. And we can always live exploratorily, trying out new things, seeing how we can get more of the things that make happy into our lives and what such attempts do for us.
And so, the necessity of living actively even applies to meaning in our lives.
*The* meaning of life may not exist, but *a* meaning we can give our individual lives. #ecohappy suggests that there are better meanings than simply making money and living with pleasures, and at some level we all tend to agree (or so it seems) as someone who just had it good would not be seen as having had quite as good and meaningful life as someone who made something of his/her life, even if it was “only” to raise children to be proud of.
Meaning like that doesn’t just come into life, it has to be cultivated in a life. Decided on, worked towards, and given priority over – or put into a good balance with – all the demands that are placed on a person.
Such purpose in life helps create happiness; putting it into practice helps be active and live longer and healthier; it makes it easier to avoid the temptations of distracting comforts and conveniences and stay active instead.
It’s what makes a morning not a torturous return to the ugly reality of dawn, but the beautiful sunrise of another day to celebrate. Maybe it becomes drudgery soon enough, anyways – and still, there’s the reason we as human beings need so much to come alive.
Not everyone’s good at finding such a deep purpose that drives them – and only too many are too good at finding it in only the simplest of biological drives, towards power, profit and sex, that may not be the best for either the individual or, let alone, the world – and yet, a craftsman’s attitude towards life can still help.
Your life is your raw material, so take a good look at it and start carefully working on chipping away the superfluous, shaping the contours, seeing what you can shape and what will emerge from it when you look at it as “deep craft.”
This may well be the case where the path truly is the goal, for there is always something more to learn and something more that will help with a better life, and the very experimentation and learning meant to lead to that destination of a better life is what makes for better living.
Balancing life’s demands, balancing different goals, staying in shape and learning more, keeping active and engaged – saying that there is no purpose or that life’s boring truly is the ultimate insult to life once you delve into it and see the ocean of possibilities. You needn’t drown in that ocean of possibilities, either. Just start swimming with or against one current, find one thing that strikes your fancy or one opportunity offered by where and how you live, and start going – and growing – with that. In the kitchen, on the windowsill, in the backyard, out the grassland, up the mountains, down to sewing, along with the neighborhood kids…
The purpose of life is to live.
If you need more meaning, give your life more meaning. Delve into it, don’t get discouraged by the maelstrom of currents pulling this way and that, pick one direction and start paddling.