Treasures of Simple Living
Part III

Tools

CHAPTER 13: MISTAKES

Dreams are an integral part of trying to create a new way of life, but to turn those dreams into reality takes time, energy, money, skills and the right attitudes. First I’d like to look at some of the mistakes we and other back-to-the-land people have made and then highlight just a few of the many practical skills and attitudes that can help us on our way.

"The first thing I want in the forest is a lawn." When I looked at the woman in amazement she added, "Doesn’t everyone?" I wondered if she realized the enormous amount of work it would take to make a lawn with no topsoil or ready supply of water. She had the suburbia complex. She had come out to the woods, but she had brought town with her, and we all do it to one degree or another, often without realizing it. The old habits are hard to break, but break them we must if we are going to survive and thrive in our new setting.

It’s natural to make mistakes when we are experimenting with a new lifestyle, but if we make too many they spell failure. Here, then, is a short catalogue of some of the most common errors.

Money

Money is the first problem. It’s easy to imagine that creating a simple lifestyle won’t take much, but it does. We need land, building materials, tools, a truck, and so forth, and despite the fact that we are trying to create an alternative, we are part of the whole economic system in this country. Nobody sets a special price for us at the lumber yard or the grocery store because we are trying to lead a life of voluntary simplicity. And nobody is going to give us a piece of land for free even if they bought it for a song, no one has ever lived on it and they can’t imagine that anyone ever could. It’s nice to dream of living off the land, just as we dreamed of the tropical island paradise, but who wants a handful of manzanita berries and a few cattails for dinner? So the question becomes: where is the money going to come from? The first part of the answer is perhaps the most important. Thoreau said, "My greatest skill is to want but little." If we buy a piece of remote land, create or salvage part of our building materials and simplify our diet, the amount we will need will be greatly reduced. But we still need some money. One answer is to start our own business. We will discuss crafts in another chapter. Another solution is seasonal work. If we are lucky enough to have a pension or some income, then it will stretch much further on the land, particularly if we have paid for it outright and built our home. It’s nice to think that something will turn up, but we can’t count on it. We have to try to arrange our money affairs before we make the move. We can save it from a job in town or go on a special money trip and make a herculean effort to cut down our expenses. We’ll be happy for every dollar we bring to the land.

Self-Employed

It’s nice to have our own business tailored to our needs and location, but it’s more complicated than we first realized. Let’s take a common example. People have come to the forest and decided that the easiest way to make a living is to cut firewood and sell it in town. With pine selling for around $55 or $60 a cord and a good worker able to cut and deliver two cords a day, it seems like we would soon be on easy street. But what is the reality? First we need the equipment. A good chain saw can easily run over $300, and then there’s the question of a truck. A normal pick-up will soon break down under the strain, so we need a larger truck. And finally we need permission from the State or Federal forestry, and this can be more annoying than anything else. We might know where a beautiful grove of dead trees is right down the road, but they’ll send us to the other end of the county.

Then we need the skills. Start falling trees without them and we can end up in the hospital or worse. Even the best woodsmen have had close calls, and they carry an array of wedges, sharpening tools, protective clothing and a backlog of experience about how to handle various kinds of falling situations.

Finally we’re out in the forest, and then the work begins. Two cords of wood makes a pile 4 feet high, 4 feet wide and 16 feet long. We have to select quality trees, fall them, cut them to uniform lengths, haul them to our truck, load them, and unload them at their destination. When at last the customer’s check is in our hands it is money we have really earned. Then we start hoping our truck doesn’t break, our chain saw doesn’t blow up and our backs don’t go out. People actually are out in the woods making money cutting firewood, but it’s no picnic.

Search for Land

Land is essential to the dream, and sometimes our eagerness for it clouds our judgment. First we actually have to find the piece of land. We can’t take the seller’s word for it, and since many times a professional survey would cost almost as much as the land itself, we are left finding corner stakes and laying lines. This is a step we can’t skip. Someone sidles up to us with a picture showing a little cabin in a stand of trees. It’s beautiful. It’s reasonable. We can’t wait. We think, "Here’s my ticket out of the rat race." Sold. Then we go to see our little piece of paradise. It’s miles from any maintained road or school bus stop, and it has no electricity or telephone. The cabin’s there, all right, but it has been flattened by the winter snows and the land is strewn with trash. Some paradise! Don’t buy what you haven’t seen, and spend as much time as possible on the land before you purchase it. Learn what the local conditions are. Then when you go to buy it make sure the seller actually owns it. Have a title search made. It’s relatively inexpensive. Or learn how to do it yourself.

For most of us with our town eyes land is simply land. We don’t look at it like the farmer, forester or rancher. We simply haven’t been trained to see it like it really is. We see the dream instead. We want a garden, but just throwing seeds in the poor ground isn’t going to give us one. Lack of soil and water, temperature swings, summer frosts and wild creatures all conspire against us. Or we want to raise animals because it is part of our image of what a homestead is like. But we neglect the basic fact that animals need to eat and drink, and only certain kinds of land can be turned into pasture. We may cut down our trees, but the result, instead of a grassy meadow, resembles a desert. Getting a few eggs or some goat’s milk quickly becomes an expensive proposition. We have to look at our land carefully. If it were great for growing crops or raising cattle, somebody probably would have tried it there before. We have to balance the physical problems of the land against its lower price and the freedom that a remote piece of land gives us. If at all possible, buy the land outright. It gives you security in those times of erratic employment and income.

Home

Building a house can be one of our most memorable experiences, or it can turn into a nightmare. We have to tailor the building to our location, our aspirations, our energy and our pocketbook. We can’t transplant a suburban tract home where it doesn’t belong. You don’t have to be a genius to build your own home, but at the same time any mistakes you make you end up living with. It’s nice to economize on building materials, but not at the price of a roof that sags under the first big snow, or leaks. And it’s no fun to wake up in the morning and find that our water buckets have frozen inside our house. We need insulation, and unless we are very clever, that means commercial insulating materials which are expensive. This is no place to skimp. If we spend a winter in a poorly sealed and insulated building we will wear a path from the woodshed to the stove as we consume 10 or more cords of wood and still feel chilled from the drafts. And it’s work to get all that wood. If we throw up our houses without proper foundations or undersized beams, they are going to start coming down quicker than we realize. Better a smaller building than a big windy barn. It’s possible to salvage materials, but it’s grueling work to take apart some stud wall shack and try to reuse it, and if we don’t know what we’re doing it can end up looking like just another shack. We can use what local materials there are, but even here there is no magic. If we have the timber we can use it whole in the form of poles and beams, but they are heavy and hard to work with. We can cut our own lumber using either a chain saw mill or a portable saw mill, but the first is a chore if we are after simple boards, and the second is expensive. Often we can do as well by talking to a local mill owner and seeing what he has available.

House building is hard physical work. Many of us are not accustomed to it, so it creates stresses and strains on the psyche. We’re tired, we need to make important decisions, we’re anxious about how it’s all going to turn out, we begin to think that the work will never be done, and we end up taking it out on each other. Expect these kinds of problems and set up a way of taking breaks and dealing with them as they appear. Better that we fail to meet the building schedule than end up with a divorce.

Utilities

Everyone wants plenty of water. That’s part of the dream, as well. But it’s better to create our own alternatives than go broke trying to have a well put in or wear ourselves down hauling enormous amounts in from town. It’s possible to have whatever conveniences we want in the forest. Take hot showers, for example. People say, "I wouldn’t mind living out back, but I need my hot shower." Well, we can have all the hot showers we want out here. In the summer there are solar showers. In the winter there are wood-fired hot-water systems. Build a sauna or have a hot tub, but fit it into the setting you are living in. Don’t try to duplicate the systems that exist in town.

If we don’t want propane lights we can have electric ones. But instead of 120 VAC from overworked generators, let’s try making a 12-volt DC system. Rather than bulbs, we can use fluorescent lights that take a lot less current, and develop an inexpensive charging system, whether by sun, wind, or a small charger built out of a gas motor and a car alternator. There’s no need to settle for kerosene lanterns, still less candles, unless we happen to like the feeling they give us.

We have to adjust to no mail deliveries or telephone. Most things will wait until we get to the mail box, and there are always phones in town we can use. We can set up emergency procedures so that if something urgent comes up a friend will bring or CB in a message to us.

If there’s no place to economize on insulation, we shouldn’t try to get by with a bad wood stove. Let’s buy a good one or make one for virtually nothing, for who wants to put up with a stove that can barely hold a fire, pours smoke into the room, or molders along without ever really burning right? A wood stove is a vital tool, and along with it we need good firewood. There’s a lot of talk about the virtues of various kinds of firewood, but often there is no choice. We use what is available, but the trick is to have enough of it and keep it dry. Every winter we see tracks in the lower reaches of the forest where somebody has been roaming around looking for a snag. It’s exhausting work to try to cut and haul wood through deep snow, and it’s completely frustrating to have a big pile of wood in our yard that’s sopping wet and barely burns. Dry, seasoned wood is true wealth we can’t be without.

Food

"What do you eat all winter, rice and beans?" There are two very different ways to eat rice and beans. One is with the feeling that we are up against hard times, don’t really have the money for a proper diet, and have to make due until things get better. The other is to make those beans soybeans, create a tasty celestial "chicken", put it together with brown rice, add a salad of sprouts and grated carrot, and have a feast that can’t be beat no matter how much we pay for it.

Winter Travel

"Give me a 4-wheel-drive and I can go anywhere." Well, that’s simply not true. And bad roads are not something to fight any more than we have to. One of the biggest habits we bring with us from town is constantly jumping in the car and doing a little errand. We need a quart of milk, a can of tomato sauce, or whatever, and off we go. That habit simply doesn’t fit our new surroundings. We have to get into bulk buying, consolidating shopping trips and eliminating the unessential little frills. Even trips of necessity to a job or the school bus stop become a real ordeal, especially in the winter. When we have to spend hours every day getting the kids to school, home school looks better and better. If we take those same hours teaching our children, our children, our car, our budget and we might be a lot happier.

Wild Places

"How’s the hunting up there?" This frequent question implies that we should know, for we are in a great position to do a lot of hunting. And we are, but we don’t hunt at all. There is an important difference between enjoying the forest and its animals and trying to use them. It’s hard to explain the joy we get from a glimpse of a deer bounding through the brush or a rabbit hopping up our path. Hunting season is not our favorite time of year. We’re afraid to go walking in the woods and afraid, too, that some of our animal friends will never come back to visit us. These days it’s rare to find someone who has to hunt in order to eat. Once you consider all the expenses of a hunting trip, deer meat is about the most expensive meat you can get. Some of the best hunters I know, old-timers who shot more animals than they can count when it was a matter of putting food on the table, no longer hunt at all, or simply stroll through the woods for old-time’s sake. Somehow they know that times have changed, which is a fact that escapes too many people cruising around in fancy 4-wheel drives, living in motels and spending a small fortune to kill an animal. Hunting has become a business and is no longer an integral part of life. Modern hunting just illustrates how separate and antagonistic we have become to nature when the only way we can relate to it is by killing it.

Trees

Our attitude towards trees is really no better. We want to use them, and get what we can from the land with rarely a thought of what we can give. People have a piece of land to sell and they want to log it first, or they buy a piece and, again, one of their first thoughts is how much money they can get by selling the trees. Sometimes this is a sad economic necessity that stems from being enmeshed in an inordinate economic system. But once the trees are cut, they’re gone, and that piece of forest will never be the same in our lifetime. They call the ponderosa pine, yellow pine, but it’s getting harder and harder to see where the name came from, for it’s only the big, mature trees that take on a rich reddish-gold color. The forest is used and abused a lot more than it is enjoyed. There are pieces of forest land that look like Berlin at the end of the Second World War. They have simply been destroyed by uncaring logging contractors who are cutting the trees of absentee owners. Even the State and Federal Forestry are under all sorts of economic pressure to produce revenue. Thus, they think of taking more rather than replanting. Beautiful old-growth timber is simply so many dollars per board foot, and so the whole character of the forest changes. On the other hand, there are responsible loggers and land owners who harvest trees with a minimum of damage and actually create a better environment for new growth. It can be done. A lot of old-timers in the woods know how to do it, but it’s up to us as landowners to ask for it and demand it.

TV

"I can’t stand it around here any more. I go outside at night and all I hear in every direction are generators for my neighbors’ color TVs." Why be in the forest if our minds are plugged in to town? It really doesn’t make a lot of sense. It’s a roadblock on the way to the mental transformations which are the real gifts of simple living. I’m half afraid that some day we will be traveling up in the hills of Baja California and come upon a little rancho with its palm-thatched hut, and sitting right out in front of it will be a satellite dish. We need to give ourselves a chance to discover our own interior resources in the slow rhythms of nature around us.

Home School

There are many kinds of home school. Once we met a lady who was living in a tent while her husband looked for work. She was unsatisfied with the local schools and she taught her son six hours a day scrupulously following a correspondence course. There is home school which is simply regular school held in the home, and then there is the free-floating variety. There are home schoolers who are heavily into alternative lifestyles, and others who are religious fundamentalists. Therefore, if we are going to seriously consider home school, we will have to grope our way towards the style that best fits our need and those of our children. Naturally, I prefer a free and more organic approach, but others are more comfortable with a set curriculum. But we can’t repeat the mistakes of the school system and make home school into an ordeal for our children. What’s the point of having our children in a beautiful environment if they have to sit at a desk all day?

Why?

At first glance most of the problems that homesteaders face seem to center around economics. A family buys a place, then they can’t find work and they leave. Another family builds a home but discovers that the conveniences they are used to simply aren’t available. They eat dust. The bugs bite. They haul water, and they leave. A third family sets up a place, conquers many of the problems, and then succumbs to boredom. They have no answer to the perennial question, "What do you do in the woods all day?" What do you do? Why are we here? This is a question that is even more important than economics, itself. We need not only freedom from the problems that beset us in the life we lived before, but more importantly, we need freedom for something more. Buying our land and building our home is only the beginning. The only way we are going to truly break the suburbia complex is by having something better to put in its place. We can gather resources and learn skills, but the hardest job is to change ourselves.

 

CHAPTER 14: TOFU AND TEMPEH

I make tofu once a week, and the result of half an hour of work is four tofu meals and at least as many of tempeh made from the soy pulp.

I soak 5 cups of dry soybeans in 10 cups of water overnight. The next day I drain the beans and heat up about 15 cups of water. I take a large pot, put a colander on top and place a large piece of nylon tricot cloth over it. I also need a bowl for the soy pulp, a blender and I am ready to go.

To begin the process I put 2 cups of soaked soybeans and 2 cups of hot water in the blender, and run the machine for about a minute until I get a thick slurry. I pour the mixture into the waiting cloth, gather the four corners, twist the cloth so that it is closed, and press down on the cloth until all the soy milk has been expressed. I flip out the ball of soy pulp into the bowl, and then repeat the blending and squeezing until all the beans have been processed.

To make the tofu from the soy milk I heat it up until it reaches the boiling point and actually begins to rise. I turn off the heat immediately because soy milk boils over as easily as regular milk does. In order to turn soy milk into tofu I have to add a solidifier. While the soy milk was heating up I heated 2 cups of water with 3 tablespoons of Epsom salts (some people use less) and brought the mixture to a boil. Other solidifiers can be used, such as vinegar, lemon juice, etc. I personally prefer Epsom salts because I like the resulting texture of the tofu, but you might experiment with the others to see which one you prefer.

When the soy milk has reached the boiling point I pour one third of my water Epsom salts mixture into the milk, give a couple of good stirs and then gently pour the second third on the top. I cover the pot, wait 6 minutes, take the cover off, add the last third and gently stir the top inch of the milk with a wooden spoon for 20 seconds. I cover the pot again, wait 3 minutes, and once more stir the top of the milk, this time for 30 seconds. At this point I should see clear yellow water around the edges of the white soybean curd. If I don’t, then I either reheat the soy milk or add more water-solidifier mixture, or both.

When the tofu has been solidified it is time to drain it. I have the nylon tricot, clean side up, waiting in the colander which is in a bowl. I pour the tofu into the cloth carefully so that I don’t break up the curds. I take each of the four corners, raise the cloth up, and tie it to a rope I have hanging from the ceiling. I either let it drain for a few hours, or if I am in a hurry I twist the cloth closed and push on it with a jar, or whatever I have handy, to hasten the draining process. When I am done the result is a firm, white cake of soybean curd. I put it in a container, cover it with cold water, and store it in a cool place until I need it. Change the water every day, and it can last several days.

Celestial Chicken. I use a portion of the tofu cake, cut it into cubes, add an egg to it and mix well, and then add flour to it to bread it. I fry it in oil until it is golden brown on one side, then I flip and brown the other side. I drain the cooked tofu on a piece of paper towel and serve with brown rice, gravy and a salad.

Tofu "Fish." I use the celestial chicken tofu and serve with tartar sauce.

Sweet and Sour Tofu. I cook the tofu as in celestial chicken, make a sweet and sour sauce, serve with rice and pour the sauce over the tofu.

Another way to make fried tofu is to cut it in slabs, marinate in a bowl with soy sauce and garlic powder, and fry. Tofu can be used in Italian dishes, or cooked with curry, etc. It is rather bland in taste by itself, and takes readily to your favorite flavorings.

Tempeh

Tempeh originated in Indonesia. It can be made from split soy beans or other grains. I like to use the soy pulp that is left once the soy milk has been expressed. I put 5 or 6 tablespoons of vinegar on the soy pulp plus some tempeh starter. I mix it together well. I put plastic wrap on top of three cookie sheets, spread the soy pulp evenly in them, no more than inch thick, and then cover them tightly with aluminum foil that has been pricked with a fork every couple of inches. I put them in a warm place, and wait until the incubation period is done. It usually takes 2 or 3 days, but if the weather is particularly warm it might take only a day or a day and a half. If the inoculated soy pulp keeps its whitish color, it is not done yet. If it gets very black and you can smell ammonia it is overdone and probably shouldn’t be eaten. It is perfect when a uniform dark gray covers it, binds it together and it smells fresh. Because we usually eat our tofu meals first I have gotten into the habit of cutting the tempeh into large squares and drying them on a rack. Once they are dry they last indefinitely. If I want to use my own tempeh starter, I crumble up some of my dried tempeh pieces and sprinkle them on top of the soy pulp. We have had no problem doing this, but the chance of getting a bad batch is probably higher than using fresh starter each time. I store the dried tempeh in zip-lock plastic bags until I am ready to use them. To reconstitute them I put about a cup of tempeh into a frying pan, add 2 cups of water, let the water boil away, add oil and fry the tempeh until it is crisp. If I use fresh tempeh I put it in a colander, place it over a pot with some water in it and let it steam for about 20 minutes. Then I fry the tempeh in oil.

Spaghetti Tempeh. Our favorite tempeh meal is with spaghetti. I fry the tempeh as described above, sprinkle it on top of cooked spaghetti, and cover it all with spaghetti sauce. Delicious.

Tempeh Tacos. Another favorite meal is tacos. I fry the tempeh, and as soon as it is crisp I add a cup of tomato sauce, season with garlic powder, chili powder and oregano and mix well. It looks remarkably like hamburger meat. We put the tempeh, some salad fixings, perhaps some refried beans, tomatoes and even a little grated cheese on our tortillas and enjoy!

I am not an expert in tofu and tempeh, so I suggest that you refer to the Resource Guide for cookbooks which will help you make both tofu and tempeh and create your own favorites. It’s a lot easier than it sounds once you get the rhythm of it, and your reward is nutritious, delicious and super inexpensive protein-filled meals.


CHAPTER 15: CRAFTS: SEARCHING FOR
RIGHT LIVELIHOOD IN A WHACKY WORLD

Arts and crafts are one of the small businesses that many of us think of first. Most of us have hobbies or interests we have never fully explored, and its natural to wonder what it would be like to say good-by to the job and earn a living doing something we enjoy. But the road to becoming a professional craftsman or artist, which means someone who practices their craft full-time and makes money enough so they don’t starve, is again filled with obstacles. At every craft show large and small you can usually spot some newcomers. They have that eager look of anticipation on their faces, they have worked hard, made what are often attractive items, and finally they steel themselves to go out there and put them up for sale. It would be nice to say that hard work and good products are enough, but they aren’t.

At one show, for example, a young couple appeared with a new baby and they were selling beautiful cribs and playpens. As the weekend went by their faces lost their glow after selling virtually nothing. At another show a school teacher in her 30s set up a booth of paintings. She had been working on them for years, and deep down she hoped this would be a way to a richer and more exciting life. It was a good show. The craftspeople around her were filling their wallets, but she went through the entire three days without a sale.

What was happening? There is simply more to success than making a good effort and turning out a reasonably proficient product. We have to choose the right craft, produce it at the right price, and sell it to the right audience.

The Right Product

For a long time we made candles and sold them at a craft co-op, and we did candles because we enjoyed it. It was a good feeling pouring the hot wax into the holes scooped out of sand, and then producing a multi-colored top for it. In the seconds before the colors hardened it was like gazing into a magical liquid rainbow. Some of these candles had shells and driftwood embedded in them, and we sold them little by little through the store. One day we totaled up all the hours we had put in and all the materials we had purchased. Our return? 57 cents an hour! Naturally candles didn’t bear thinking about when we were faced with the decision of what to do to earn a living. Instead, we thought of the dozens of craftspeople in our co-op and made a deal with the most successful one.

We could do this because we clearly distinguished between craftsmen and being artists. We wanted an honest way to work with our hands, produce a good product and get a fair return on it. If we had been doing some craft or art that was the vehicle of our own creativity we would have faced a much more difficult problem. The artist in this sense is following an inner flow that often does not coincide with the market conditions. While the school teacher artist sat and watched the crowds walk by her booth and ignore the paintings by which she tried to express her inner self, there were other painters selling purple sunsets and cute cats that were perfect for wall decor. The more your craft is your way of self-expression the harder it’s going to be to make your way in the atmosphere of the ordinary markets. There are superb artists who are much in demand and sell to a well-heeled audience for large prices, but that’s usually not where most of us are.

Making It

We used to say to each other, jokingly, "The only way to survive in handcrafts is to make sure your hands never touch the product." If we spent a lot of time designing beautiful items, we spent even more figuring out economical and rapid ways to produce them. People like handcrafts. They are free with compliments, but when it comes right down to writing out a check, they really want the price to be less expensive than what they think they would have to pay in a store. The problem becomes producing an honest piece of work with a price low enough so that people will actually buy it.

One day at a large summer craft show we sold our fanciest piece, a giant carved wooden frame backed with mirror, to a young couple. Months later we saw them again. They had taken the piece home and it had intrigued their grandfather who said, "I can make that." And so he did, but at the end of the experience he told them, "You’ve gotten a real bargain," because it had taken him so many hours to reproduce it. The secret of our success was in all those little discoveries that make a job go easier. For example, no matter how intricate the design, we tried to make the mirrors simple rectangles. Or when it came to staining the wood, instead of taking a brush and a rag and laboriously trying to cover every contour and cutout, we simply plunged the whole planter into a vat of stain and wiped off the excess with a squeegee. Hardly very artistic stuff, but it saved a great deal of time.

Selling

So, finally you have a good item at a good price, and then comes the hardest job of all – selling it. There are craft shows all around the country, and they range from a one-day fair in a Church basement to a 10-day marathon at a big state fair. Sometimes the whole experience of doing shows seems like a long series of problems. You worry about getting enough things made, then you load them and try to find the distant mall or fairground where the show is being held. You worry about what space you have been assigned by the show director, and then you set up and worry where the customers are and whether it will rain or not, keeping everyone home. Let’s imagine it has turned out to be a good show and you are breaking down your display with a pocket full of money. Then, in some places, you worry about getting out of there without being mugged.

It doesn’t take too many times sitting behind a pillar in a mall in Nowheresville on a Wednesday morning to realize the mall director and the show director have a different perspective on what it’s all about than you do. The mall wants as many people to come in to see the show as possible, and yet not have anything in the show that will detract from the sales in its own shops. The show director already has your money in his or her pocket and she is there with her show to please the mall director. How much you might make is often no concern of theirs. The less scrupulous kind book too many craftsmen selling the same kinds of items, and they put a show in places it never should be. One place I was in they were actually rebuilding the mall over our heads, and as I set up our display, showers of sparks from the welding torches sprinkled all around me. Part of the problem is that there are so many eager craftspeople that some of the show directors think they are the boss and try to treat the craftspeople as if they are employees. On the other hand, there are others who make an all-out effort to make sure the show will be as successful as possible for the participants, and this is only good business in the long run.

Despite all the problems it’s still possible to make money. Let’s suppose we go to a mall show that runs 4 days and we sell $1,200 worth of items. Does this mean we are soon to become wealthy? Let’s look at this figure more closely. There are the material expenses for producing your product, and the upkeep of your shop or work place. There’s the show fee and the money for gas to get back and forth and to maintain your vehicle. A reasonable figure for the net is around 50%, and then only if you’re careful. If you add 4 nights in motels plus meals in restaurants you have taken a big chunk out of your profits.

But let’s imagine you have slept in your van or camped, and bought food in the supermarket. You’ve kept your $600 intact. But that has to pay your labor of 4 days from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. sitting and selling, but mostly sitting. You need to be a real aficionado of malls not to get so bored you are ready to scream. Then you need the time at home to make your wares, and add to that travel time. The total can exceed 100 hours, and put your actual wage down around $5-$6 an hour. And that’s when you have done well on the show. If it’s a rainy weekend or a holiday, perhaps you have made only $600, so your wage is closer to a dollar an hour. And what happens if you only make $200? Marketing crafts can be so consuming that people take to the road for weeks and months at a time. If they have a craft that’s portable enough, they live in trailers and motor homes and go from show to show. It can be fun for a while, but it can also get very tiring, and it’s not really what most of us have in mind as a home business.

There are all kinds of audiences. You have to find the one best suited for what you are making, or have a wide enough range of products to cover all eventualities. At some shows we would put up a display of our mirrors and then a work bench in front on which we carved wooden signs. We would bring stacks of blanks and sell them for a dollar or two. This kept us busy until the crowd that was interested in more expensive items would show up later in the day or on Sundays. At another show at a university things were dead. The students simply had very little money to spare and most crafts were too expensive for them. But by a lucky chance we had brought dozens and dozens of little frames backed by tiny mirrors. They were just perfect for their new rooms in the dorm. Some days you get the "ice cream" crowd. They’re out for a change of scenery and you’re it, but they have no money to spend. Other days, those wonderful and hoped for ones, a frenzy of buying seems to descend on the crowd. You barely have time to complete one sale when another customer is trying to get your attention. Maybe it’s contagious. We were once selling our favorite triple mirror and after the first two sold we had to assemble the pieces on the workbench so that we could display it. But people were coming and buying it virtually sight unseen even before we could put them together. At the end of another hectic but successful show a sudden wind blew up, battered our display and dumped several of the mirrors to the ground. As some helpful customers prevented it from tipping over entirely, others were grabbing at the remaining planters to buy them! Too bad all craft shows can’t be like that.

I’m not trying to discourage you with all these ups and downs. There are people who are making a living selling crafts, and you can become one of them. But just like building a homestead, it takes more than a dream.

 

 

CHAPTER 16: BACK TO ECONOMIC BASICS

The way we view economics has a large influence on how we shape our alternative. I confess that I find more satisfaction and real profit in reading Thoreau’s "Economy" in Walden than I ever did studying the Federal Reserve System or how to hedge convertible securities. I don’t think we will ever solve our nation’s economic problems or our own until we get back to economic basics, and that means focusing on what money and work really mean and how they are meant to serve other values.

The classic American dream is to have a lot of money. We get sweepstake entries in the mail or buy a lottery ticket and imagine what it would be like for our money problems to be over once and for all. But it’s entirely another matter to actually find out what happened to those lucky lottery winners or other recipients of sudden wealth. Their stories are sobering and sometimes even depressing. They have the money but also a lot of unwelcome, unwanted attention which can sour their relationships with their friends, relatives and co-workers. They buy a large house, fancy furniture, a boat, a new car, etc., but rarely does the money appear to open the way for a more meaningful, exciting existence. Often the winners quit their jobs but don’t have anything of overriding importance to put in its place. Even though we would like to think we would be the exception, can we be sure that it would turn out that way? I’ve met a number of people who have attained financial security. They have made good investments or put in twenty years or so and have an excellent pension, and they have enough money to retire at 30, 40 or 50. I’m always curious to see what they will do with this golden opportunity. Almost invariably after a period of retirement they get bored and go back and do something like they were doing before. The pensioner gets another job. The businessman starts making more money. Why? Simply because that is what they know how to do. Or put another way, they don’t know what else to do. So they amass more counters in a game they have already won. No active energetic person wants to sit around even if it’s in a Florida condominium or a beach house in the Bahamas. We are not prepared for free time. A job has swallowed endless hours, and when it releases us we have no clue of how to use this new-found freedom. And the obsession of our society with money doesn’t help. It makes it harder to do things that have no connection with money at all. We are misunderstanding money and work and the relationship between them. And most of all we have lost sight of the fact they are meant to serve higher values.

One way to break this impasse is to imagine what we would do if we were suddenly rich. We should look at this fantasy with as much detail as possible. Would I quit my job? Would I buy a fancier home, would I try another career, or travel? Make a list of your desires in the order of their importance. Then really look at them. Would they really change me if they came true? Would I be genuinely happier? How long would the glow and thrill last? How many of these dreams are my own and not those of the world around me? Many things we have longed for turn out to be the setting for life and not the stuff of life itself.

Once you have winnowed out your list and found some real goals worth pursuing, don’t wait to be rich. Start now. Take a step even if it’s only a tiny one. Travel, for example, can be a lot less expensive than we ever dreamed. A new career can start with our own study or volunteer work. It’s always easier to save money if we have a definite concrete goal we are working towards. Don’t let real dreams get deflected.

Another way to try to break the misconception we have about money and work is to imagine traveling back in time and seeing them as they must have existed for our ancestors.

In the world of the hunter-gatherer there was a rough equality. The men hunted while the women gathered and probably collected the bulk of the food. Some people were more gifted than others, but everyone grew up knowing the basics. They could build a shelter, make a fire, tell the edible plants from the poisonous ones, catch a fish and so forth. They were all in contact with the earth. They all had direct access to it and its fruits.

Trade was a secondary matter. They didn’t live by it. It was a chance to get some extras, and these extras were often non-essential. It was a question of beads or shells or sweet-smelling resins. The economy meant simply the household and the attempts to fill its basic needs.

As trading increased, no doubt connected with the rise of farming that allowed men to stay in one spot and accumulate more things, money developed. It was a way to facilitate trading by converting things into one thing that was universally in demand and could always be traded for something else. And money had its roots in the old days when trade was mostly ornamental. Money was shells or silver or gold or pretty stones. They were widely desired, compact, durable and relatively easy to transport. They were simply one of the old trade items that had risen to preeminence. I give you some eggs for a piece of silver and you can trade it for what you want. Money simply represented actual things, for it was something valuable itself and facilitated their interchange.

But two events were to come about and radically change both money itself and the whole idea of work. The first was the introduction of paper certificates to represent gold or silver or whatever the real money was. This was a convenience, but an almost irresistible temptation, as well. The banker, whether it was the central government or a private bank, wanted to get something for nothing, and so it started printing a few extra papers and spending them. People accepted them as real money at first and it got away with it. But soon they caught on. Sometimes they wanted their real money back and at other times, when they couldn’t get it, they had to settle for seeing the value of their paper money decrease, for more paper was now available to purchase the same amount of things, so the things became higher priced or the paper was worth less, depending on how you want to look at it.

When this process of inflation is carried to excess we get the situation that existed in post-World War I Germany where the value of money changed every day and you needed a suitcase to carry it to the grocery store. It is the makers of this new non-money that benefit, for they spend it as if it were worth the same as the old money, and it is the people on fixed incomes that suffer most, for their income falls in terms of what it can buy.

The second big change in the economy was the fact of specialization. Suppose one day in a moment of inspiration one of our hunter-gatherers invents a superior fish hook that has a barb instead of being smooth. When his friends see all the fish he is catching, they start clamoring for some of their own, and soon our inventive friend finds himself making fish hooks instead of fishing. It is only fair that his friends share their catch with him and there is more to share. It’s progress, but there is a danger. Let’s imagine the fish hook maker passes his trade on to his son and the son grows up making fish hooks in exchange for all his basic needs. Then the day comes when someone down the river invents a radically new kind of hook that is much better. Our fish hook maker has suddenly discovered something new: unemployment, for unlike his father he can’t go back to nature and the old ways, for he has lost those skills.

In the days when money was real we could be on the lookout for false coins and clipped edges. Now when money has lost its roots we become easy prey to a horde of manipulators and speculators who have discovered that the easiest way to make money is not doing something productive, like building a house with their own hands or growing some wheat, but to manipulate money. They insert themselves between the farmer’s wheat and our mouths, or the house and the person who will dwell in it. We have become so accustomed to this we are not only not supposed to complain, but we are to applaud and imagine they have created the wealth they gather. But they are really not creating. Their money is coming out of all our pockets. The real estate tycoon thinks it is a good stroke of business to buy for his own account a house that comes on the market, spends a few hundred or thousand dollars on cosmetics, and sells it for $15,000 or $20,000 more. But that money comes out of my pocket each month for 20 or 30 years as I pay the mortgage.

This brings us back to work and specialization. The further I am removed from the Earth and the ability to satisfy my basic needs directly, the more I can be manipulated. If my home, my food and everything else depends on my pay check I have lost a great deal of my bargaining power right then and there. If I had a way to survive I could simply not work for the overbearing boss, the unfair wage, in dangerous conditions, etc., nor would I totally be in the money economy buffeted by the manipulators, speculators and plain miscalculations of investment bankers, stock markets and commodity gamblers, and so forth.

We have distorted the real meaning of private property. In essence it means we all have an inalienable right to the earth and its fruits. And this is not a right to "own" the earth but use it gently and ordinately to satisfy our legitimate basic needs. We are born with this right as children of the earth. But we have perverted it into a greedy capitalism or an oppressive state socialism. It is a destructive fiction to believe we can own the earth. All over the planet we see men owning more than they can personally work on or consume when countless others go hungry. When private property takes this form it is a distorted quest for meaning where there is never a point when we can say, "I have enough."

We need to work both physically and mentally. But work has lost its moorings like money has and is distorted. We are overspecialized doing too much of one kind and not enough of another, and we become unbalanced. A doctor becomes a worker on an assembly line of bodies, his real identity as a healer of people becomes lost and he succumbs to the same poor health habits as his patients. A construction worker or businessman drives himself to the point of exhaustion while the rest of his interests begin to die from lack of attention. We are not simply cogs in an economic engine cranking out the gross national product. It is important for us to work in all areas of our life, to feel our hands in the earth, the heft of a good tool as we make something, the challenge of a fine book, and just plain time to be with the people we love, to enjoy nature, to ponder what it is all about.

Economics will never make sense when it is left as a matter for specialists who are supposed to be fine-tuning our money supply. Economics is rooted in the earth and our efforts to turn its fruits into useful things. It is eating and building a shelter and staying warm. It is a contact with the earth we cannot relegate to others to do entirely for us. When economics is torn lose from its true setting it becomes prey to distorted dreams of wealth and power instead of providing the simple life that would allow us to try to be fully human.

 

CHAPTER 17: HEALTH OF THE WHOLE PERSON

Food as Medicine

Simple living comes about as the result of a series of transformations of attitudes. We change the way we think about land, houses, school, etc., and this process must be extended to health, itself. We have to take an active part in our own physical well-being. We just can’t leave it to the doctor. Doctors trained in the traditional way are preoccupied with illness, but health is a state of well-being that comes out of our whole lifestyle. It’s intimately connected with the exercise we get, the air we breathe, the amount of sleep we get, our mental attitude and especially the kind of food we eat. If we are sick we need to treat not only our symptoms but try to discover their root causes. Most diseases, especially the degenerative ones, don’t happen to us like an unforeseeable accident. They build up slowly as the body struggles against a less than optimum environment both inside and outside itself.

A whole new approach to health is developing called orthomolecular medicine by some. Orthomolecular is a word coined by Linus Pauling which means the right molecules in the right proportions. Every cell in the body needs certain nutrients to perform best, and the orthomolecular physician attempts to provide them, while at the same time he struggles to eliminate the substances that are poisoning the body. Not only do the individual cells have their own food requirements, but each of us has our distinctive nutritional needs. We differ in our sensitivity to various common substances. We need one kind of mineral or vitamin more than the other people in our family. We have our unique nutritional needs and sometimes distinctive allergies to the toxic agents that are ever more present in our environment.

The orthomolecular approach takes into account our own biochemical individuality. We might, for example, go on a fast for 4 days to eliminate all the foods or chemicals from our system that might have been causing allergic reactions in us, stressing our bodies and leading to other illnesses. Then we introduce the common things we eat and the common substances in our environment one at a time in the form of single food meals. Since the fast has cleared the body of its addictions the reactions are often strong and dramatic. There are documented case histories of people who have reacted violently to common substances like wheat, chocolate, dairy products or cigarette smoke.

Once the question of allergies has been settled, then the doctor tries to tailor an individual program of food, minerals and vitamins. But the minerals and vitamins he views not as drugs, but as natural foods the body needs to perform at its best. There are recommended daily amounts for most vitamins, but it can easily happen that our own individual requirements are much higher, and we are suffering actual disease or a lack of well-being precisely for that reason. Orthomolecular physicians treat a wide variety of physical illnesses including hypoglycemia and diabetes, and they also treat intractable mental illnesses like schizophrenia. They recognize that there is a large biochemical dimension to schizophrenia, and it is often pointless to treat it by purely psychological means. Instead, they screen for allergies, use massive doses of the B vitamins, etc. This is an exciting medical breakthrough, but it faces real obstacles. The traditionally trained doctor often has a skimpy knowledge of nutrition and his hands are full keeping up with the ever growing arsenal of powerful drugs and surgical techniques. Vitamins seem too simplistic to be worthy of serious attention.

But it’s not only the doctor who has this attitude. We as his patients have it, as well. We have been conditioned to leave matters of illness in the doctors’ hands and to look for the magic cure to any ills that befall us, but in doing so we have ignored the body itself with its recuperative powers. If we have some slight interest in vitamin therapy or other alternative medical practices we are usually disabused of them by his attitude. "Doctor knows best" is the general impression and we should leave matters in his hands and not interfere. Therefore, even though we are intelligent and educated people in many fields, we abdicate our responsibility when a serious illness comes. We don’t even take the elementary precautions to check out what kind of doctor is going to be working on us or what the rating of the hospital we are entering is. You can be sure the doctors themselves have a very different attitude about who will treat them or their families.

But the problem goes deeper than this. There are some things modern medicine has a poor record dealing with, and our blind acceptance prevents us from exploring other possibilities. It’s part and parcel of us getting away from nature. It really isn’t the doctor who heals. He ought to be striving for the best conditions for the body to heal itself. A more ecological medicine escapes us just like the ecology of our environment did until recently. We eat too much junk food, we drink too many cups of coffee, we smoke too many cigarettes and we tolerate a wide variety of poisons in our environment. Then when illness touches us or one of our loved ones we are surprised and shocked and run to the doctor for a miracle drug. But miracles simply aren’t happening the same way with some of our biggest killers like heart disease or cancer. And the orthomolecular answer is so simple that we can’t believe it.

Let’s take a concrete example. If we are used to doses of vitamin C in the range of 50 to 250 mg. we will find it hard to credit the fact that we might need considerably more, especially if our bodies are under the stress of a serious illness. The amount necessary for our optimum functioning might be 2,500 mgs., and if we were suffering from cancer, an acute viral infection or many other things, it might be 20 or 30 grams, that is, 20,000 to 30,000 milligrams.

It’s heart-breaking to watch someone dying after conventional medicine has exhausted its remedies and to realize they either don’t know about other approaches or cannot bring themselves to believe in their possibility. Their minds just refuse to accept that there are other ways. I have included enough information in the Resource Guide so you can explore for yourself the claims of orthomolecular medicine and vitamin C and come to your own conclusions.

Psychological and Spiritual Medicine

If we fall ill we need to mobilize all our forces. Orthomolecular medicine is the foundation to which we can add psychological and spiritual healing. The mind is so intimately connected to the body that it can have a powerful effect both in our getting ill and in getting well. If we are sick the atmosphere, food and constant interruptions of the hospital can wear us down. Our homes are often much better places to be. And we can work within ourselves, as well, visualizing the illness to be combated and directing our physical forces to struggle against it.

And there are spiritual things we can do, as well. We can pray and have others pray in ways that are comforting to us. If our illness appears to be terminal we can prepare ourselves for death, an exercise that need not be morbid but can be liberating. We can put our affairs in order, let go of past enmities and misunderstandings and try to be reconciled if possible to the people who have been in our lives. We can look calmly at the beauty of our loved ones and the earth we have lived on and let our minds and hearts raise from that beauty to the One Who gave birth to all the things we love and in Whom we can hope to find them again in the life to come. Then we can see death not as the destruction and negation of life, but its culmination and a new beginning.

 

 

CHAPTER 18: HUMAN DIFFERENCES:
A HIDDEN DIMENSION OF LIFE AND LOVE

By now it is clear that creating a simpler lifestyle, at least at the beginning, is a complex business! If it were a matter of hammers and nails it would have been accomplished already. But it is really other kinds of tools that we are lacking, the tools to transform ourselves and our way of seeing. Here is a brief introduction to one of my favorites, a tool to help us get along better with each other and with ourselves by understanding human differences. It is forged from the work of C.G. Jung and William Sheldon.

Human differences play a large but virtually unnoticed role in our daily lives. They are the secret cause of countless tensions and arguments between husband and wife, parent and child, friends and coworkers. They effect our choice of mates, jobs, and leisure activities. Let’s explore, then, some of these differences guided by the work of Sheldon and Jung. Our goal is the recognition that these differences actually exist all around us and that, if we can begin to understand them, we have a chance of becoming more understanding, tolerant and loving, both at home and in our community.

Dr. William Sheldon (1898-1977)

Though human differences exist all around us we often take them for granted. We even have a built-in resistance to focusing on these differences for fear that it will somehow lead to prejudice and repression. Unfortunately, not to openly examine them, far from reducing this danger, increases it, for prejudice feeds on our lack of awareness.

Imagine being on a beach or in a crowded store, or simply sitting on a park bench watching the people go by. They are tall, thin, short, well-padded, muscular, etc. just a few minutes of people-watching is all we need to be convinced of the great variety of body types among us. William Sheldon, a noted American psychologist, was not only fascinated by people watching, but it turned into a life-long career. He initially took 4,000 photographs of men and tried to discover basic elements that could be found in every body. He came up with three: roundness (endomorphy), muscularity (mesomorphy), and linearity (ectomorphy). Roundness is obvious in someone like Santa Claus, with his rounded belly and short arms and legs, muscularity is predominant in a Mr. Universe, and linearity can be clearly seen in a tall, gangly person who seems to be all arms and legs.

Each of us is born with all three elements, but we have a unique combination of them. We might have a lot of roundness and little linearity, or a lot of muscularity combined with roundness. We might be linear, but also have some muscularity. Or many of us have all three in fairly equal degrees. What makes it even more important to recognize these bodily differences is that they represent the outward manifestation of inclinations for different kinds of behavior. In short, Sheldon saw a connection between the kinds of bodies we have and the kinds of activities we enjoy doing.

Different bodies have different needs and speeds. We vary in the amount we sleep, eat and exercise. We differ in how we tan, react to pain or sorrow, and how susceptible we are to various diseases. Someone with a lot of endomorphy often takes special pleasure in having company and sharing good meals with them. He or she can tend to be sedentary, open-handed with their affections, money and sympathy. Someone, on the other hand, in whom muscularity predominates, might love to be active, have the inclination to plan and execute projects, dislike small places, and have trouble keeping their competitiveness in check. The highly linear person, in contrast, can be inclined to solitude, avoiding strangers and crowds. He or she can dislike noise and be restrained in showing their feelings.

A word of caution is in order. These few remarks are simplifications of Sheldon’s extensive descriptions of temperament which, in turn, are simplifications of the complexities of real life. Type descriptions are pointers to help us unravel our own experiences. They are not pigeon-holes we attempt to force people into, but rather, descriptions of certain basic elements that we all have, each in his own distinct way.

Dr. C.G. Jung (1875-1961)

Differences of body and temperament are complemented and completed by differences in our inner personality. We have distinctive ways of seeing and relating to the world around us and to our own interior world. C.G. Jung started unraveling these differences by using the words introversion and extraversion, though common usage has often distorted the meanings he originally intended. We are all both extraverted and introverted, but we usually favor one attitude over the other. In extraversion our energy flows out of us and concentrates on the people and things around us, while our introverted energy shies away from exterior realities and is directed to our own interior world. Often misunderstandings are due to ignoring this one difference.

After long and careful consideration Jung decided that not only were there people who were predominantly extraverted or introverted, but there appeared to be different kinds of extraversion and introversion, as well. Thus, in addition to the two basic attitudes, he described four functions which are the ways in which the psyche makes contact with either the inner or outer world. These Jung called thinking, feeling, sensation and intuition.

He paired sensation and intuition together as two opposite ways of perceiving. Sensation is the perception of the immediate and tangible reality around us by way of seeing, hearing, touching, etc., and as such is familiar to us. Intuition is also a perception, but of what is in the background, i.e., hidden possibilities and implications. It is similar to the way we understand inspirations and hunches. We perceive something, but we are not aware of how we got to that perception.

Thinking and feeling go together as a pair of opposite ways of making judgments. Thinking is the way of judging about the nature of things by means of our ideas and their organization. It concerns itself with the question of truth or falsity. It is not to be confused with intelligence. Feeling is an equivocal word in English. It can mean instincts, emotions and hunches, as well. For Jung, its meaning is limited to a sense of rapport or lack of it by which we decide whether we like or dislike something, feel it is good or bad. It is not to be confused with having emotion.

Jung summarized the 4 functions like this: "Sensations (i.e., sense perception) tells you that something exists; thinking tells you what it is; feeling tells you whether it is agreeable or not; and intuition tells you whence it comes and where it is going."

These four functions allowed him to describe eight types, since both extraversion and introversion could be expressed in each of these four ways. In becomes clear, then, that the exploration of human differences will take some effort. Not only must we master the vocabulary of the guides we use, but more important, and perhaps even more difficult, is the interior effort by which we convert their words into actual insights in our own life. Is it worth it? Let’s look at some of the practical benefits it could have in marriage and family life.

Human Differences in Daily Life

People contemplating marriage are often attracted to someone who is not like themselves. The quiet businessman, for example, is drawn to the outgoing and vivacious lady. Opposites attract, as they say, and this means introverts are drawn to extraverts, thinkers to feelers, etc., and the reason for this attraction is to be found in the fact that though each of us possesses both introversion and extraversion, and the four ways of perceiving and judging, if we are strong in one area, we tend to be weak in another, and we often try to make up for this weakness by getting together with someone who has this particular gift or talent in abundance.

There is nothing wrong with this in principle as long as we are aware of what is happening and the fact that sharing in someone else’s gift does not relieve us of the responsibility for developing our weaker side. In fact, we have a variety of gifts because we are meant to form one community and share them to make it function properly.

If there were not dynamic mesomorphs around, there are many difficult and dangerous jobs that would not get accomplished. If there were no endomorphs, an element of warmth and nurturing would vanish from life. And what is the value of the more solitary ectomorphs? It is to be found in their dreams and far-reaching intuitions that sometimes strike upon a new possibility that is valuable for us all.

Differences exist in every marriage, and while initially they can form the basis for a romantic attraction, as the years go by it becomes more apparent that the person we married is not quite like we imagined them to be. All too often our culture, upbringing and our own mental universe have failed to educate us in the legitimacies of these natural differences. We have certain images in our minds of what men and women should look like and how they should act. Society is constantly exhibiting a certain narrow range of physical types as the norm of beauty. It urges us to be outgoing and popular, competitive and analytical, and all these qualities suit one kind of person more than others. Not everyone is meant by nature to have the same physique or to find socializing easy, or to be highly competitive in sports or academic subjects. If we give in to the stereotypes of the society we live in, or of our particular inclinations, we do injustice to ourselves and those we love. It is possible for an athletic father to have a son who has no gift for sports. It is possible for well-educated parents who have given their child every academic advantage to find that he or she will never be a great success in school. The child's mind may simply work in different ways than the accepted models in the classroom. There are different kinds of intelligence, and only a small part of them are measured by scholastic aptitude tests and college entrance examinations.

A practical example can help us penetrate more deeply the different perspectives involved in many ordinary family situations. Let’s imagine the father of a family who is predominantly mesomorphic and endowed with a great deal of extraverted energy and drive. This serves him in good stead in his business life and providing for the economic needs of his family. But this outward-directed energy is not something that is grafted onto a psychological core so that he is only superficially different from his wife and children. His extraversion permeates his thoughts and moods, in fact, his whole outlook on life. His attention is focused on outer events which enables him to be very effective in operations which require a prolonged physical and mental effort, whether it is equipment to be built or repaired, a business deal to be closed, or a mountain to be climbed.

What will such a dynamic and out-going person think of a wife or son who has very little muscularity, appears hesitant to jump into the job to be done, and is socially retiring, all of which are legitimate qualities of the introverted ectomorph? His instinctive conclusion can be that this person is an undeveloped mesomorph who must exercise more, become socialized, take a course in self-motivation, etc., and in this judgment he has the force and pressure of the prevailing societal norms behind him. But what he doesn’t realize is that this other person not only possesses his distinctive gifts, but that these gifts can be the very ones he is lacking. There are certain deficiencies directly connected with his conscious abilities. For example, his energetic pursuit of his career can become an obsession that ignores other important values, such as his bodily health and the need to consider the feelings of the people around him. It can preclude time for reflecting and dreaming and discovering the inner subjective side that all people have. It is certainly true that his wife or child with their own point of view can be equally prejudiced, and fail to see the positive aspects of his gifts. When such a situation develops, family arguments tend to repeat themselves over and over again. This is because neither participant can comprehend the possibility that though the same words are being used, they are being filled with a very different content which ultimately depends on these differences in outlook. This is all the more regrettable because, in the case of our example, a wife or child who is more introverted can be viewed, not as an undeveloped extravert, but as a potential guide to another whole world which is being neglected, and the opposite is true, as well.

It is extremely difficult in practice to come to terms with the fact that someone we love does not share our own inner way of seeing things. Without a firm grasp of the legitimacy of these differences we are inclined to attribute bad motives to them. We feel they don’t want to be accommodating, or want to have their own way, etc. The introverted child, for example, can learn to be more outgoing, but the best atmosphere to foster this growth is a genuine acceptance of the gifts this child has, even though they are hidden from the world.

Practical Possibilities

What can be done on the practical level to become aware of the world of human differences that we live in? First of all, we should strive to acquire the habit of looking closely at ourselves and the people around us in order to see these differences in action. Instead of simply reacting when they appear, we must consider the possibility that they represent legitimate alternatives to the way we see and do things. Secondly, we can learn more about these differences, and I have mentioned some places to begin in the Resource Guide.

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Treasures, Part IV

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