When I tell people that I live off the grid, and am striving to build a self-sufficient homestead, some of them think I’m living an extreme life and seeking to go back in time. With respect, these people are wrong. Here is why I think homesteading is not only the lifestyle of the future, but possibly the only future we have left.
Finding Meaning in Post Industrial Life
While I don’t need to detail the ills of society today — from social unrest, political upheaval, rapid erosion of civil liberties, to environmental concerns — I think almost everyone can agree that something has to give.
There may not be, and possibly cannot be, a simple solution to all of this. Complex problems often require complex solutions. But, one problem that we all most solve for ourselves is purposeless.
In the past, everyone knew what was expected of them. Marry, have children, try to keep food on the table on clothes on your back. Historically, most people had a rough time of life. Even in the United States, 100 years ago the average person lived on less than a dollar a day in present day money.
Whether it seems fair or not, even the poorest in America today are well within the top 0.1% of the wealthiest individuals in history.
We also find ourselves in a place of privilege and responsibility felt by few where it is relatively easy to not starve. And, we have a wide latitude to live our lives in the way that we want to. No one is forcing us to work or not work. And, while we can all wish for more liberties and less arbitrary regulations, for those of us in the country, we have more choice that almost anyone in the world.
But, what has been taken from us is direction and a clear set of values to follow.
Because we have the power to direct our own lives, and live in a very relaxed and open society, there is no path laid out for us. We are almost too free.
Succumbing to Purposeless or Hopelessness is a Vice
So many people today are living practically hollow lives —
- Binge watching YouTube and Netflix
- Living alone
- Having few or no responsibilities
- Consuming food, entertainment, and pornography at a prodigious rate
- Leaving nothing behind when they die but their possessions and debts
The problem with living this way is the effect on the psyche. I claim that many of the problems we have all noticed today — the multitude of “sins” in society — are caused by this lack of purpose.
Homesteading Reconnects Us with Reality
Making a commitment to live off the land, grow your own food, and work for what you eat is our first step to finding purpose in life.
Nature has a wonderful way of setting the record straight about what is really and what isn’t. Because, if you don’t get it right, nature will bash you over the head until you do. You can read a hundred gardening books, but you will never be a gardener until you tuck in a bumper crop. There is no mistaking what works with what doesn’t.
Being in nature has a way of keeping us focused on what is important. Living on a farm lets you experience life, death, birth, and rebirth all first hand in a way that no city dweller can really comprehend.
Memento Mori (Remember Death)
Homesteading reminds us that what we eat comes from somewhere. And, that living things sacrifice their lives so that we can exists. This isn’t a call to vegetarianism — although you can if you want — but rather a reminder to make the most out of the gift of life that we are blessed to inherit.
Without direct experience we cannot hope to live our lives wisely and acquit ourselves well.
So many philosophers and great thinkers have found solitude in nature, you would think all of the college graduates out there might realize there is something to the rustic life. From Whitman to Jesus and Buddha, we should follow their example.
Freedom of Thought and Freedom of Life
The traditional wisdom of every religion agrees that the way we make our livelihood directly impacts our morality and mental process. An engineer cannot help but think like an engineer, a clerk like a clerk, and a factory work a factory worker.
But, our bosses and the media are training us to act like sheep. Being free thinking, creative, and self-actualized is actively discoursed in almost every stage of life, from education to employment.
The ills are humanity are not a technological problem! No electric car, solar panels, new app, or SpaceX rocket will save us from ourselves. Humanities problems are ills of the mind, which can only be solved on an individual basis.
What we need is hard, rewarding work that demands free thought. We need real responsibilities, so that we can be certain deep in our bones that if we died today, somebody would miss us.
We need a real connection with the hidden depths of our own minds, as well as the real personality of other people, rather than the vain and superficial puppet show of social media and internet culture.
Redefining Virtue and a Life Worth Living
Looking back in history, it is clear that great men and great minds have long known there is much more to life than most people now living realize.
One story that really struck me was the part in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance that discussed the ancient men of Troy and Greece. They believed that how wealthy you are or how long your live is of almost no consequence, rather the quality of your life that mattered.
The ancients found in their heart a quality or virtue that became for them their own personal holy grail. They strove to spend every moment they could perfecting the art of living, striving to be the best man or woman possible, and ultimately be proud and satisfied when the moment of death inevitably came.
What great possibles are open to us now more than ever!
Everyone has access to ivy league classes, a practically limitless collections of digital books by the great writer in history, poetry, art, master craftsmen online teaching their trade. And almost any good or tool you can imagine delivered to your door from sellers all over the world. Everyone of us today has has opportunities to excel and build a legacy that man even 50 years ago could never have dreamed of. But, instead of perfecting ourselves, we work long hours so we can pay down a mortgage on a bigger house. What a waste!
How far are we from that ancient Greek ideal, with the multitude of baby boomers hoping to live forever, and the multitude of youth working for the weekend and living like there is no tomorrow.
Why Following the Herd is No Longer Safe nor Possible
Any hard, long look at the previously strong and proud institutions is bound to make modern man despair.
The great religions, once giving hope and direction to so many — and causing great pain as well — are weakened beyond repair. The universities and institutions of academia are rotten to the core with postmodern and Marxist zealotry and will likely not survive as pillars of truth and freedom of thought. The estates of media, the military, and the government look as bad as ever, if there was ever anything honest or solid about them to begin with.
Finally, the only motivating structures that remain are business and marketing, who amplify the destructive twin obsessions of earning and consuming.
While I could spend another 1000 words just outlining the precarious economic and environmental situation we are in — and no, you don’t have to believe in “global warming” to see that industrial agriculture is just asking for trouble – suffice it to say there may come a time when grocery stores are picked clean and the faucets run dry.
While I hope such a thing never happens, the naive optimism that many of my peers express — that, “there will always be food at the store” — is misguided at best. Although I cannot predict the future, there is real danger in the way we run our lives. And, no one can know exactly when and how something might happen, eventually one of the doomsday predictions will be right. After all, even a stopped clock is right twice a day.
And what is causing us to act out this end? Our own gluttony, hubris, and lack of humility in thought and action are leading us off the edge of this cliff.
Transitioning to a more modest and healthier lifestyle that is honest to the core is the only true remedy for the dedication to excess my generation inherited from our parents and a lesser extent our grandparents.
And, while you may find absolution in the city, it is much easier out here in the country. Homesteading, self sufficiency, and off grid living force us to confront our delusions of grandeur more directly than any other mode of living can. Having a direct connection with your food, power usage, and waste management along with opportunities for profound quiet and solitude cuts through the illusions of modern life more quickly than a hot knife through butter.
Come join us in the homestead life, and discover who you really are.