Let me begin with the warmest of thanks to all of you who have expressed heartfelt concerns, thoughts and prayers for my mother who has been fighting these past many months with her health. The sensitive struggles persist, but our family’s hopes and spirits remain high. Please do keep my mother in your reflections over the next few weeks as daily hospital visits continue.
As I sit now to write an update of my ongoing adventures, it stuns me to realize that two months have passed since my last post. It stuns me even more to count the number of new subscribers who have joined me here ~ in anticipation of fresh blog entries ~ during the many weeks of my absence. How grateful I am to everyone who has subscribed and graciously granted me such patience during the extended silent periods between my articles. Hopefully you will not be put-off by my sporadic writings and find more value in the sincere sentiments of my notes, than in the frequency of their delivery.
In defense of any muttered “blog delinquency” charges against me, I beseech ye jurors in this fickle court of social media to have mercy upon my position as a semi-reclusive but devoted family man and occasional traveling troubadour (required to be on the road for several months of each year) ~ who chooses to minimize his computer usage while at home and treks without a lap-top, iPhone, iPad or any other technological divide linking himself to the world wide web.
Backward as I may seem to many, the decisions to limit my time on-line at home and also travel lightly (as “unconnected as possible”) are part of a whole plan I have begun setting in place for myself since returning from Pakistan a few months ago. The initative is an effort to help me better maintain balance in my life with regards to my dependency on technology, my tendency toward absentminded wastefulness and my desire to avoid becoming a servant to materialism. It is not that I am “anti-technology” or against the benefits machinery can bring. Obviously I use a computer, a car, musical instruments, tools, cups, spoons and even braces to hold my pants up (or “suspenders” as my American friends call them) ~ all of which are forms of “technology” in varying degrees. What I am cautious of, however, is becoming too dependent on any form of technology or machinery ~ relying upon it to a degree where I am at a loss without it or a slave to it.
Living in Northern Pakistan easily lent itself to my experiments in simple living, since by its very nature, the infrastructure of my environment in the foothills of the Himalayas was less developed than here in North America. No garbage collection…informally crude recycling programs… and far less access to amenities, facilities and utilities in Northern Pakistan meant constantly being on my toes with creative ideas for how to reduce waste, manage time, run my businesses and tend to my home. For example, my family and I learned very quickly how to maximize our usage of internet access and electricity between lengthy load-shedding times each day ~ and happily did so without dependency on expensive UPS (battery operated Uninterrupted Power Supply) systems or gas run generators.
Arriving back here to Canada last October, and realizing my stay would be much more lengthy than initially anticipated, I began to worry about how I would personally maintain a balanced approach to living simply, in an environment where electricity, water and Wi-fi signals seem to run from endless wells through webs of wires, pipes and personal media devices. Because access to so much is only the flip of a switch, twist of a facet or trip to the mall away, I often fear falling into the sub-urban trap of “buying ease” and alternatively forgetting how strip away abundance to discover it!
“Ease” and “Simplicity” can often be very relative to the unique views of differing people. To some, a Blackberry, iPad or Android providing a constant link to emails or Facebook means “ease” in communication with others. To me, a man who requires a great deal of thinking/reflection time and struggles with the challenge of maintaining clear mental focus in new places or among new faces ~ the idea of having on-going conversations with others who are not directly sharing my air space is very disruptive no only to my “alone time” but also to the immediate and very “real” social environments I find myself in. Frequenting airports, for example, I observe people texting, tweeting, twittering, chatting and engaging with others via their hand-held devices…even while in public rest-rooms! Such overwhelming “connectedness” at all times to virtual social networks is simply not my cup of tea. My heart holds no desire for it, nor judgement toward it except, of course, when I spy said individuals lifting their eyes briefly from their devices to cast a rude scowl or comment toward another individual, proving that ~ for as socially skilled as they may be “virtually”, in reality they are sadly socially stunted and civicly-challenged.
As a man who has also struggled since primary school with difficulties in reading and writing, as well as with efficiently being able to organize my thoughts under pressure ~ a two sentence text message or email fired off by one individual in simple “ease”, is for me a grueling 45 minute endeavor of reflection, composition and editing. In short ~ emails, texts and Facebook posts take a hell of a lot out of me….hence I must limit my on-line correspondence with others to safeguard both my sanity and my time. One man’s “ease” is perhaps, another man’s agony. I believe it is important for us to define our own comfort levels in life, based not just on the swinging pendulum extremes of “social expectation” or “egocentric preference”, but rather, upon what our heart tells us is “the right thing to do” to avoid disrupting our own peace of mind, or the peace of others around us.
Thus, I spent a great amount of time in November and December of last year defining a list of limits for myself, “safeguards” if you will, which I hope may help me avoid living too extravagantly in a land where extravagance has become the norm and where many of us are often socially bullied to comply with specific standards for lifestyle, consumption and even communication that we may find personally uncomfortable. It has been my objective to simultaneously ensure that the prescriptions I have made for myself do not hinder or even shadow the freedoms of others around me, including even my closest friends and family members.
Over the next few weeks I will try to share aspects of my experimental “safeguards” in various posts. The list (which is constantly being amended, reassessed, re-evaluated) deals with self-imposed (or what I like to call “conscience imposed”) guidelines pertaining to many aspects of my life, including ~ clothing, possessions, purchases, time/electricity/water/gas usage, musical expression, social media (Facebook, emails, website etc), food consumption, economic justice, community contribution and more.
Posts will follow shortly…but for now, I must get back to the pressing task of completing my terrace compost bin. More on that soon!