Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Second Hand Information

If all goes well, this will be a blessedly brief post. My previous post mentioned "Voluntary Simplicity". Only a couple days later this item was posted on MSNBC. I don't read MSNBC, but I think I caught the link on Reddit.

We all live second-hand lives. We learn from others who have learned from others who have learned from others. The food we eat is fertilized by the dead matter of that (and those) which (who) preceded it. In our modern world, second-hand anything is unthinkable. But if we see second-hand knowledge as unappealing, Odin-forbid if you walk into school with second-hand clothes! The second-hand knowledge that we need so desperately has been lost like a pair of MC Hammer parachute pants at the bottom of the bargain bin at the Salvation Army store. We need to know that second-hard information on how to hunt and gather and reap and listen and commune and survive. We need that information that great-grandpa tried to share. Alas, we were too busy reading about the latest pop star to listen. I found the article interesting only because it reinforces what we already know: 1) People want more meaning in their lives and they know it doesn't come from buying things and 2) The world (especially the corporately controlled consumer world) will think you are nuts or worse when you don't comply. Back to my idea that dropping out means non-compliance. Yes, this isn't quite dropping out, but it is counter-culture. Even this relatively benign act by a group of friends was met with hostility. If people react this way towards these folks, how do you think they will treat those who really drop out? I could go on and on about this, but you already know what I'd likely say.

I'm really beginning to think that this world is beyond hope.


Anonymous devin said...

Hahahahaha. That article was fucking hilarious. Sometimes stuff like that makes me sick, but this article had me rolling. Some choice tidbits for those who don't have the patience to read it:

"One member recalls asking permission to purchase a new toilet brush, contending that it was a health issue. Overruled."

"The greatest challenge of the Compact? "The strangest things," Perry explains. For example, he cannot find used shoe polish."

"Then there are modern dilemmas. Is it better to buy a battery (allowed, if recycled and rechargeable) for a cellular phone for $70 or just have the company give you a new free phone if you switch providers?"

Oh the agony!

"'I broke down and bought a drill bit,' Rosenmoss says. The Compactors nod their heads. 'I just wanted it and I needed and I did it.'"

.... ahahahaha. This next bit is classic:

"'You learn to do away with the impatience.' Boyd says, 'You see that the craving will pass.'

Drill bit cravings! Who knew they were an addiction?!

"Amazingly, the Compactors have all decided to renew their pledge for another year."

And they all lived miserably ever after, not being able to support their basic needs, due to the inability to find used shoe polish and the rule against buying drill bits. Oh woe.

hilarious. thanks for posting that.

On a more serious note, there's something to your statement on "beyond hope". I'm done with hoping, and I'm done with its counter-part -- despair. Hope becomes a substitute for our creative will to live whenever we feel despair and disempowerment. A lousy substitute.

- Devin

December 19, 2006 10:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You always seem to be apologizing for not being "dropped out" enough or for focusing on things that aren't as "important" as dropping out.

I don't see it that way. Sure, some of us won't or can't drop out (I don't agree that anyone can, because you need a certain personality type to pull it off in this culture), but I think just getting rid of the consumerist mind-set, the idea that the solution to any problem can be found in a retail store is a major step. Even if that's all the further anyone goes, it's a great thing.

As for second-hand information, that is so important. I wish I had talked to my grandma more about her childhood. She was a wealth of information, but I wasn't interested in the things she knew about until it was too late.

I remember in college, I wanted to make candy as Christmas presents. I think I was making caramel. And I just assumed we had a candy thermometer in the house, but it was only after I had already started, that I realized we didn't have one. The recipe gave a temperature but also said something about a "hard ball" stage. I remember moaning in the kitchen, "Grandma would know what hard ball was." My dad heard me and came out in the kitchen. Turned out he had watched his mom make candy a lot and knew what hard ball stage was. The candy was saved!

Oh, and my grandma did impart some things to me before she died. I got interested in eating wild plants and got a couple books from the library. Those books with illustrations are notoriously bad. I can look up a plant I actually KNOW, but the illustration looks nothing like it. So, armed with a description and a stupid drawing, I went in search of elderberries. I found a bunch, made some elderberry jam from a recipe, and took a jar of it to my grandma. She lived out in the country, and as I was driving her to run some errands, I passed some "elderberries." I said, "Look. Those are some elderberries there." Well, it turned out they weren't elderberries, but poke berries, which are poisonous. Ha, ha. Good thing I showed my grandma that berry bush before she ate the jam.

But when I think of all the other things she must have known and didn't get a chance to impart, I could cry.

December 19, 2006 11:06 PM  
Blogger Survival Acres said...

"I'm really beginning to think that this world is beyond hope."

I had to laugh when I read that. You've read my blog, so I don't think this will be news.

Our only hope is to save ourselves. This is the only chance we (all) have. I'm pretty pessimistic on this working on a large scale, as there isn't enough interest, time or effort being expended, and the damage (all of it, social, economic, environmental) has been so great that we're going to continue to lose vast portions of the planet to human stupidity.

But individualism isn't working either. Even this "second hand" information and what it means is available for those who look.

A first-rate life can be lived, by simply choosing to do so. It is, after all, the only choice we really have. Second-rate (or worse), or first-rate. And you know I'm not talking about money, wealth or power.

By consciously choosing to reject the modern paradigm of "success" and "living" which is horribly flawed and highly self-destructive, we can embrace a first-rate life of living.

Some call this dropping out, which it is, sort of. But it's more then that, because it also implies self-responsibility that is no longer taught or understood. I call it a life worth living.

So it's not second-rate, not at all. It's high-class, responsible living of the first degree. Non-compliance to the corporate culture of course, is a prerequisite. It's certainly counter-culture, of course, but it's more then that too. It's fully embracing the life you are living and accepting all of it's responsibilties. You know, the ones everyone has overlooked and gave away to the plantation owners.

Therein lies the difference I have with the drop-out crowd. Their ability to exist remains dependent upon the cast-offs of the society they reject, which means they are still connected. In reality, we all are, myself included. But I want to take this further if I can, and not remain dependent upon anything this culture has to offer. At the same time, nor do I want to be subjected to anything this culture demands.

Lofty ideals, and a mighty struggle indeed.

It would be fair to say that all of life is "second hand", since there really is nothing new under the sun. But that fails to acknowledge that for each of us alive today, it's not true. What comes each day IS new.

So we can live our lives, rejecting the old useless paradigms of living and embrace the "new", even though they really aren't new, but as ancient as man himself. But they are indeed new to "us", those who live in this age and in this time.

And that is where you find your hope.

December 20, 2006 12:59 PM  
Anonymous Aaron said...

2nd hand shoe polish!!! do they scrape it off the shoes or what?

This is the route to burnout and alienation. Just reacting against modern life is not going to get us very far. We need to do something new and inspiring, not just the opposite with all the rules that entails.

"Not going to the movies and restaurants for a year -- now that's cutting back."

I had no idea this was hard, we've done that several times over by accident.

Maybe it's easier if you cut your income back, then you do't have to worry about the temptation of buying stuff you don't need because you can't afford it anyway.

December 20, 2006 3:25 PM  
Blogger Jack Trace said...

Frank et. al.,

The article:

1) Lots of people live this way. The only reason this is news is that these people have plenty enough money to buy things. What people are interested in is their Intent.

2) Sounds to me like they are getting a lot of positive press. I'm sure some is negative, but it certainly can't be all that bad: They've elected to continue this for another year!

So much for the article.

People do change. I completely disagree that "there's not enough interest" or something. The media is not a player in this. We should never strive to be seen on TV or in a Newpaper. They are the consumer Nation. I find that on a face to face level, there is a lot of interest. That is what matters and fulfills.

It is vital, I think, to embody our principals as well as we can, so that we can influence others with our "first-class" life. Other people are important. We loose our humanity if we just do this (or anything) for ourselves alone.

December 20, 2006 3:33 PM  
Blogger comrade simba said...

Hi Frank,
I was reading through your archives (that ought to tell you I like your writings) and something disjointed me around mid-November. There was the great don' buy nutin'rebellion post and a few days later the saga of the outhouse. You are aware of humanure and sawdust toilets, champion of the drop out movement, smart enough to write a hundred times better than me but can't figure out pissin' in a milkjug or crapping in a bucket and covering it with shredded junk mail?

Make a pact with yourself. Say "I'm giving myself the right to bitch about our idiot Congress by peeing in the jug." At least the lawn will be better off.

December 23, 2006 3:30 PM  
Blogger Frank Black said...


I had a friend once who was distraught because she wanted to make cupcakes for her friends but she couldn't find any cupcake mix in the stores where she shopped. One part of me wanted to laugh, the other part wanted to cry. My first reaction was to give her a hug and tell her that there was no such thing and explain why. After we were all on the same page, we had a good laugh. I'll pick this same strategy for these folks. I'm sure we'll all have a good laugh later on.


Yeah, I do tend to lean a bit heavily on that part of life right now. I think it is because I feel so betrayed by my country. I am really trying to move from that consumer-centric place to a place of just being a human being. Old habits are hard to break and old ways are hard to learn when there are no old teachers around (or when you choose to ignore them).

P.S. So VERY glad you didn't poison grandma. ;)


Yeah, I love that word "non-compliance". In my heart I want to go into this as part of a community because I honestly believe that is how we are designed and how we work best. But, this world elevates the individual, so it is too hard for people to subjugate themselves to the needs of the tribe/clan/crowd. I hope I am wrong.


My mom always said she didn't know she was poor when she was growing up because most everyone was in the same boat. Besides, she ate and had a roof over her head. That was all that mattered. Today, the psychic pressures are beyond belief. Once the mind can transcend this cultural trap, it can start to fall into place. I guess the spending/income thing is like TV. Some folks find it easier to not even have it so they won't be tempted. There are so many things that are addictive that I wonder what will be left in our homes?


I know no one who is living like this (at least to this extent) who is doing so willingly. Everyone I know that lives like this is poor. I know there are many people who do live this way because just a bit of 'net searching found much. Of course, just because one lives this way doesn't mean it would be obvious. I'm sure many don't want to necessarily get attention for it. They do it because it is part of them. They are, as you said, living their principals.


Yes, sir, you are correct. I would be more in line with my beliefs if I did such a thing. But, as I've either hinted or alluded to in previous posts or on other boards, I have others that rely on me. While composting toilets would be find for me (and likely my wife), the others wouldn't be as amenable. I hope that in a short space of time this will no longer be an issue. Besides, if I want to ever sell this place and downsize, I'm sure the buyer would likely see a flush toilet as a benefit. Believe me, I've thought about lovely human-fertilized flowers quite often recently. ;) And, I also take the occasional evening stroll along the property to draw a golden line in the grass that I hope keeps the deer away. I think they believe me to be mad.

December 23, 2006 10:38 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home