2014: Five-Year Plan: 4. Live Simply

This is the fifth post in a series: What does 2014 look like for me. The first, posted on January 4, gave the general outline: evaluating the five year plan I made five years age, and looking at my analysis of our world from an essay I wrote in 2010. Following that work, and providing an update of my activities of the past 2 years, I hope to develop a plan for myself for this year.

Today’s post is on the 4th goal: Live Simply

My Five-Year plan was articulated in a sermon on Earth Day, 2007. Here is the relevant excerpt:

Our leaders know that our way of life is coming to an end, but they have made the conscious decision to keep us in the best position for as long as possible. We’re all going down, but we’ll be the last ones standing. It’s a big story, it’s coming to an end, and it looks like it’s going to be a bad ending.

Our job will be the transition. It is our task to envision the new story, which may look a lot like the old, old, story – And then to start to live into that new story. At a minimum, our task is to be in position and of a disposition to be of use to the most vulnerable when things get bad.

In summary, here are five things I believe we should do:

Repent for thinking it was OK to live as we have been living.
– Don’t look away from the hard reality because it is depressing. Whatever it takes, work though the depression
Invest in community
– Live simply
– Eat only food, not too much, mainly leaves.

At this point I want to talk about money. Living simply means having less money, not just spending less money. If one lives on $20,000 per year, but has $100,000 in the bank earning interest, that money in the bank more than cancels out any benefit derived from spending less. Banks loan out multiples of the amount deposited in them. They are supposed to keep 10% on hand and loan out the rest, but through various “financial instruments” in recent years, banks typically keep less than 1% on hand. All that other money is involved in some kind of “development.” The amount of pollution to the earth by the millions of dollars in loans generated by your $100,000 is far, far greater than if you had spent the money in extravagant ways on yourself.

Living simply means getting rid of your money.

Our culture bombards us with the idea that we are morally obligated to “earn” as much interest from our savings as we possible can.

Let’s look at the language we use with money.
– In English we say that we “make” money, that is that we create it.
– In German we say that we “earn” money, or deserve it.
– In the Romance languages we say that we “win” money
– In Hungarian it is said that we “find” money.

Our Anglo Saxon language is pretty insistent that we have the moral right to acquire and keep as much money as we possible can.

I am reminded of a long running commercial in which a revered professor, speaking for an investment firm, says ;

– We make money the old fashioned way, we earn it.

More recently I have heard radio advertisements in which a rather wimpy voice calling himself “your conscience” gives advice about things like being more fashionably dressed and earning more interest on ones life insurance. That is the extent to which our culture not only doesn’t challenge the evils of interest, but appeals to ones sense of morality to have you buy into this evil.

For my part, five years ago, as part of my plan I decided to get all of my inherited money out of stocks or interest bearing accounts. I gave away ½ of all of my money, used some to make energy improvements on my home, like solar electric power, a wood stove and root cellar, kept $10,000 for a safety net, and loaned the rest out at 0% interest to folks for whom I thought the money would help them escape being stuck in the jaws of debt. I intensified my gardening efforts, began using my bike for long distance travel, using the policy that I would try to never use the car when I was alone, and I gave up flying other than to visit family. My wife got all of her inherited money out of stocks and put it into 0% interest loans to organizations like community development corporations.

I have to give a lot of credit for this action to my eldest daughter, who, upon quitting college, gave away the rest of her tuition money and told me that I should do the same with my money.

One of the most liberating aspects of these actions was the freedom of thought and expression that came with them. It is these actions above that allowed me to write posts like “We are Rich because they are Poor.”

In the final section of this series I will look at how I have or have not been able to maintain this position. In the next post, eat only food, I will go into more of the practical aspects of living simply.

Finally I would call you attention to a new venture into looking at these issues together which we are calling Spirit of the Poor

I look forward to getting to know more and more of you as we delve into these important issues.

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About Newell Hendricks

I have lived a good life. Maybe a counterculture life, maybe a normal life. I have written operas, built houses, been involved with cross-cultural education between Latin America and the U.S, and hardly ever had a job I have helped raise two wonderful children with my amazing wife. It's been a good ride. And I go to church. I've just finished a book of stories from my life, I am still connected to an organization in Nicaragua that promotes sister relationships between communities, faith communities, or schoold, and to the extent that my cancer doesn't pull me down, am attempting to share some of what I have learned, or at least tried out. Welcome, and let's share.
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