In my last post, I mentioned a book I’ve been reading: Moneyless Manifesto by Mark Boyle. Written by a man who lived completely without money for at least two and a half years (as I wrote in my last post, I think he’s since continued to live without money, but I can’t find anything concrete to verify that,) this book has been a sort of tipping point to a lot of things God has been bringing to my attention, lately. Although this idea of a moneyless (or at least a less-money) lifestyle has been a slow progression for both Jon and I, I haven’t written much about it before now, so it may seem to have come out of the blue and I wanted to expound a little bit.
Our friend Patrick recently said something to Jon which I think nicely sums up our current paradigm shift. He said:
“We have it all backward in our society. We’re taught that in order to be successful, we need to develop unending streams of revenue. This is a lie that keeps us dependent on the system. Whatever success is that thing will not be dependent on a continual flow of money.
I look around at my life and see how very, very wasteful we are, and how we spend money (which equates to hours of my husband’s life spent away from our family) on things we don’t need… on things that make us less dependent on each other, and more disconnected from those around us. We don’t bother to turn lights off when we’re not using them. We throw away food (or give it to the chickens) rather than make another meal out of it (despite the fact that our grocery bill is almost twice the amount of our house payment.) We use electricity to dry our clothes rather than hang them on the line (or we did, anyway, until our dryer broke which has actually been a blessing in disguise!) We have far more clothes and shoes than we really need. We run refrigerators during the winter, when air itself could keep our food cold. And in what I believe is one of the most disgusting act of widespread wastefulness the world has ever seen, we pee and poop in drinking water.
We live in a world where we give other people – people who don’t care about us – the responsibility of taking care of our most basic needs (food, clothing, shelter, etc.) and without being consciously aware of it, we’ve accepted this as the only way to live. We’ve believed the lie that the only way to provide for our needs is by selling our time to the highest bidder in exchange for little green pieces of paper. We work in jobs we hate so that we can earn those pieces of paper to give to someone else who trades their time to clothe, feed and shelter us in exchange for more pieces of paper.
Am I anti-money? Not at all. As Boyle himself says, I’m not anti anything. I’m pro a lot of other things. I’m pro-community, pro-family, pro-generosity, pro-accomplishment, and pro-a meaningful life, and if I’m anti anything, I’m anti-slavery to a system and mindset that gives money power over almost every single aspect of our lives.
I want to live in such a way that the food I eat and the water I drink, the clothes I wear and the books I read mean something to me, and to waste them would be sacrilege. I want to live in such a way that I’m freely giving my time, my talents and my resources to those who could be blessed by them, and forming meaningful relationships with the people around me. I want to live in such a way that my husband no longer has to trade days of his life in exchange for little green pieces of paper, or that if he does it’s because we’ve chosen to trade time in exchange for certain goods and services and not because this is just the way it has always been done.
From the time of our birth, we’ve been given a story of how life is supposed to be lived, and we blindly follow that story without ever thinking that it can be changed. Until recently, it has never occurred to us to build our own home, cook by fire, hand wash our clothes, make our own shoes, or use our bodily waste as compost rather than pollute clean water with it.
Granted, not everyone is willing to compost their poo or make their own shoes (okay, truthfully… I’m not sure I’ll compost my own poo, either, but I know there are other alternatives!) I can certainly understand why not everyone would want to live “off grid” in those kinds of ways. Many would rather choose to follow the script our culture has given to us and we ourselves don’t plan to move into the woods and live in a teepee any time soon. But when I look around at all the things we spend money on, I’m horrified to realize the things my husband is trading hours upon hours of his life for. And I’ve come to realize that, when looked at from this point of view, many of our modern “comforts” aren’t so comforting and conforming to societal norms that look down on the home-made while promoting brand-names made in sweatshops and shipped halfway across the world just isn’t worth it.
My husband could be home with his family, working to raise his own food, build his own house, make his own clothes and produce his own heat rather than working for someone else so that he can pay someone else to provide for our most basic needs. By exchanging one form of work for another, he could be spending time with our children as they harvest vegetables from the garden, hunt meat for our table and read books by the fire as our meals cook slowly over the flames. Why wouldn’t we exchange some of our modern “conveniences” (which in many ways aren’t conveniences at all), our multiple items of clothing, and our wasteful uses of electricity, for my husband’s ability to spend more time with his family? Will it look weird? Sure. Will people misunderstand us? Almost certainly. But the “the wisdom that men esteem, is foolishness with God” (1 Cor 3:19) and I’m willing to be a little bit strange (although really, when you consider the history of our world, our current set up is the stranger one by far) in exchange for my husband’s freedom, and so much more.
I’m ready to write a new story – a better story – than the one my culture has given to me. I’m ready to make my own shoes and sew my own clothing and pare down to only a few necessary items. I’m ready – excited even – to cook over a fire and grow my own food and even try my hand at washing my own clothes.
I’m ready to experience the blessings of a more meaningful life.