Craig wrote this response in a letter to a friend of ours and (with his permission) I wanted to post it here. Partly for us to read and remember what it is we are dreaming of and partly for others to understand a little more, so here it is:
The rural farmstead that we’re talking about is not necessarily another community. The main goal for us is to have a homestead of our own (with our friend Buffie) where we can grow food and stuff, however we are conscious of the fact that we’re liable to get lonely. We have friends who have done the same thing and had trouble with the loneliness after a few years, and we’re trying to plan in stuff to combat that from the start. For that reason, being part of an existing community might be very good for us. However, despite the fact that we’re into self-sufficiency, we don’t always find that we totally get along with other “hippies”, because basically we’re such geeks. So, the current plan is to put the hard word on all our friends, and try and find a couple of other “families” (singles, couples, poly love triangles, whatever) who might want to be our neighbouring homesteaders. So, in a sense we might be starting a community, but only a small one with people we already know.
Our drive for this, however, isn’t necessarily motivated by … interest in ecosystems … at least not on a day to day level. I’ve often found that my intellectual reasoning that clearly we all need to be living more sustainably is not really enough to get me to totally change the way I live. I think that almost all of us feel this way, except perhaps for hard core botany/zoology geeks who can maintain their zeal about ecosystems being reason enough for each action throughout their day.
I’ve toyed with many ways for explaining my motivations about the environment. From an intellectual standpoint, I derive some stubborn satisfaction from acting rightly, even if others around me are not doing so. Therefore, I don’t tend to like activism so much… and are much more interested in building something rather than bitching about the current problems (although I acknowledge that bitching is important too, and someone should do it).
The word that I’ve come across this year is “luxury”.
It’s a good word for both Tracey and myself, in that we’re both kind of yuppies, and really love good things of all sorts in a very hedonistic way.
By luxury I mean that I want to be able to judge all things that make up my life and choose only the very best of things. Each meal I eat should be the most luxurious, each piece of clothing I wear, or furniture I sit on, or house I live in, and so on.
This analysis is quantifiable in terms of how happy each of these things makes me. To make me happy, I find that things must be both beautiful and functional, and that generally their beauty should not be totally divorced from their functionality. Also, I like to think that it’s hard to find an object truly beautiful if I know that it embodies some sort of ethical hypocrisy on my part, such as gorgeous clothes made in a sweat shop. That’s how I sneak some of my ethics in, but I’m not entirely certain if that truly works as a motivation.
What I do know is that when I pick up and use something that has been made with my own hands, then I feel a warm glow of happiness which lasts even longer than the happiness I feel upon purchasing a product which is beautiful and useful, but comes from a factory (like an ipod for example). An ipod makes me a bit happy, because they really are great, but the kitchen shelves that we made from timber straight from the lumber mill are still making me smile when I see them six months later. The same is true when we eat food that we have grown ourselves.
So, although the intellectual decision to be partially self sufficient is based on an intellectual understanding of sustainability, the daily drive to pursue it is totally selfish, and is based on me wanting a luxurous life full of wonderful things and experiences that make me happy. Working for them is part of the equation designed to produce maximum happiness…