Life as an Alternative II [Chapter 6].
[Note: Please see the 1996 Preface for an explanation of the unusual pagination.]
Copyright Notice: Copyright © 1972 by Bantam Books, Inc.; Copyright © 1996 by Nicholas Johnson. All rights reserved. This book may not be reproduced in whole or in part in any medium known now or in the future. Provided, however, that permission is hereby granted to distribute this book under the following conditions: (1) that it is distributed in its entirety, including this copyright notice and 1996 Preface, (2) that no charge is exacted, or revenue received, directly or indirectly, by anyone in connection with the transfer, and (3) as a matter of courtesy and information, that the author be informed, simultaneously with the distribution, of any distribution to more than one person or posting for availability on the Internet, Web, or publicly available directory. Any other use requires the prior permission of the author: Nicholas Johnson, firstname.lastname@example.org, postal: Box 1876, Iowa City IA 52244-1876, U.S.A.
# p. 78 #
Lately it seems, Everything I see Tells me life is movin’ much too fast And underneath the strain, Folks don’t act the same And if that’s progress, I’ll take the past
Gonna find myself a country road With grassy fields on either side Gonna put on my boots and my jeans and my country hat Gonna sit by a stream as the sun goes down And straighten out my mind Gonna soothe my soul And go back to where it’s at
You can have your concrete cities, You can have your poisoned air You can have your smoke a rollin’ from the stack And don’t offer me your pity, And don’t call me square Just because I see where things have jumped the track
Try making love without drugs, alcohol, tobacco, television, mechanical music, printed matter, shopping (except for food) or automobile driving, for one month. Or for one week. Or for a day.
Nature . . . becomes to [man] the measure of his attainments. So much of nature as he is ignorant of, so much of his own mind does he not yet possess. And, in fine, the ancient precept, “know thyself,” and the modern precept, “study nature,” become at last one maxim.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
# p. 79 #
Life as an Alternative II [Chapter 6]
This is a “how to” book in the most fundamental sense. If, after reading it, you continue to think about and participate in your life the same as before, the book has failed. It also fails if you simply copy it. The examples I’ve given — and those that follow — are merely intended as catalysts to your own imagination.
Here’s a general principle for a starter. lt’s what lawyers would call a “rebuttable presumption”: unless you can demonstrate why it shouldn’t apply, you use it. The presumption is that the best thing (object, process, attitude) for you is the one that man used when he began an agrarian life. There will be, of course, a great many exceptions to this rebuttable presumption. Polio vaccine, so far as I know, has prevented a great deal of human misery with no adverse side effects. I see no reason why its use shouldn’t be encouraged even though our first ancestors didn’t use it. When I am going from Washington to Los Angeles on business I use airplanes and rented automobiles. “Perma-press” shirts are a godsend; I can get some satisfaction from ironing, I suppose, but I wouldn’t cotton to it on a regular basis.
There are also some quite natural activities that are simply forbidden by law or social custom. Running about with brief (or no) clothes may be best for healthy skin, but it’s apt to land you in jail. Outhouses may be a form of recycling that will produce fantastic tomatoes, but the law (and the high concentration of urban neighbors) requires that we all use indoor toilets and the corporate sewerage system.
It is not easy to cast aside any culturally ingrained habit or attitude — nor should you, necessarily. The most important thing is to think about what you are
# p. 80 #
hooray for bakin’ soda ain’t it neat and cheers for national bakin’ soda week for folks that’s young and folks that’s old bicarbonate of soda will cure that cold it cleans your teeth and prevents the flu and you can use it in your car battery too it puts out fires of fat or grease pass the bakin’ soda please
Do you need these? Explore the following list and decide which of the items on it are essential and which are merely “convenient.”
- -Electric comb
- -Electric knife or carver
- -Electric charcoal starter
- -Electric can opener
- -Electric broiler (besides the broiler in your oven)
- -Electric hedge trimmers
- -Power lawnmower
- -Electric shaver
- -Higher intensity lighting
- -Home garbage compactor
- -Home incinerator
- -Total air conditioning
- -Food waste disposal unit
There are non-polluting alternatives to each of these that consume less energy and cost less to buy and to operate.
# p. 81 #
doing, relate it to the early agrarian standard, consider the extent to which some corporation is profiting from your present pattern, ask yourself about alternatives, and wonder whether you might not be more content and fulfilled if you were to change in some minor (or major) way. Let’s see how it works.
Start by searching your house or apartment for things you can throw away. Ask yourself, “If I were living in the woods, would I spend a day going to town to buy this aerosol can?” Look for simple substitutes.
Take bicarbonate of soda, for example. You can substitute it for the following products: toothpaste, gargle and mouthwash, burn ointment, bath salts, stomach settlers, room freshener, fire extinguisher, icebox cleaner, children’s clay, and baking powder. And it costs only twenty-seven cents a pound! If a woman feels she simply must use beauty aids other than fresh air, sleep, exercise, proper nutrition, and soap and water, she will find that bulk cold cream is as effective as dozens of cosmetics costing ten to one hundred times as much. When nutrition, exercise, rest, and massage fail you, and a headache remedy is called for, bulk “house-brand” aspirin (at ten cents a hundred) is as effective as highly advertised products costing five to ten times as much.
Look for unnecessary appliances or other machinery. Bread can be toasted in the broiler of the stove. Carving knives really need not be electrically powered. You can put fruit and vegetable waste in a compost heap instead of down an electric disposal. I took up shaving with a blade, brush, and shaving soap instead of with an electric razor. It’s kind of bloody, but it’s more fun.
# p. 82 #
Blow up your TV Throw away your paper Go to the country Build you a home Plant a little garden Eat a lot of peaches Try and find Jesus On your own
MAN: A fine way to wind up your honeymoon! Having your bride say, “You have perspiration odor!” WOMAN: Well, you do, honey. MAN: I use a deodorant. WOMAN: You need more. You need my Palmolive Gold! ANNOUNCER: Palmolive Gold has more hexachlorophene to stop odor than any other leading soap. WOMAN: The honeymoon over? MAN: Just beginning. Jingle: Don’t wait to be told you need Palmolive Gold.
-a television commercial
ANNOUNCER: If you like the kind of adventures that befall you as a handsome, debonair, swashbuckling young rake, you can continue using Great Day [shampoo color lotion] after your vacation’s over. If you don’t like looking handsome, debonair, and swashbuckling, nothing’s lost. You can always go back to looking old.
-a television commercial
# p. 83 #
Sharpen up your senses. Primitive man had much sharper hearing and sight than you and I. The corporate state wants you to buy its spicy seasoning to put on its bland preprocessed foods, to smell its perfumes and deodorants, to listen to its automobile radios and phonograph records, to look at its ubiquitous commercial announcements — and to feel nothing. Leave it behind. Find some fresh air and breathe deeply. Find some organically grown foods and enjoy the delightful sensation of tasting real fruits and vegetables. Listen to the birds, or the water passing over rocks in a stream. Watch the sun set, or a leaf fall from a tree. Feel the wind upon your skin.
That’s the general idea. Now let’s take a little more systematic look at our lives with this perspective.
The corporate state tells you to ignore your body and concentrate on its coverings. You must wear a uniform: a business suit, a cocktail dress, or a regulation tennis outfit, depending on the occasion. We are urged to evaluate ourselves by the standards of Vogue, Playboy, and Esquire. When we don’t measure up, women are urged to buy padded bras, men are encouraged to take a muscle building course, and both are made to feel they must go on crash diets — all at some corporation’s profit.
There’s nothing wrong in adorning your person in an original fashion that suits your own personality, that gives you the psychological satisfaction of identifying with some group, or that contributes to some ceremonial occasion. I don’t particularly dig “fashion” myself, but mankind has for ages. The principal thing to guard against is that you are not simply buying
# p. 84 #
Hello to the good old summertime! Hello to new romance! Hello to wedding bells that chime! Hello to flirty glances! Goodbye to all those lonely hours I’d spend on Saturday night! No more ignored, now I’m adored, since I switched to Ultra Brite! Ultra Brite toothpaste, a taste you can really feel! Ultra Brite gives your mouth sex appeal!
-a television commercial
WOMAN: I’ve always heard that men like a good figure. So I — I used Clairol’s Great Body. And it — uh — gave my hair a — um — a whole new set of curves. And it — it didn’t make my hair feel stiff — feel stiff, either, it just felt like I was wearing a lot of hair. You know, women use Great Body. But it’s really for men.
-a television commercial
For fundamentally, drug users are behaving like good American consumers. The mass media tell us continually to satisfy our emotional needs with material products — particularly those involving oral consumption of some kind.
# p. 85 #
cosmetics and clothes in whatever fashions and price ranges the corporations exact from you in exchange for their imprimatur of acceptability.
Recognize the diabolical plot to simultaneously rob and degrade you for what it is, a sick bit of corporate piracy. Reevaluate your standards of physical beauty in yourself and in others. “Diet” to gain health, not to lose weight, unless your overweight is, in fact, a health problem. If you’re alone, or with someone who shares your feelings, I’d say the less clothes you wear the better, consistent with warmth, physical protection, and comfort. At the very least, take off your shoes and any undergarments that bind and constrict. Girdles are just designed to get a woman’s money and then make her feel uncomfortable — physically and psychologically (she has to wear it to be “acceptable,” and even then she doesn’t make it).
Think about the products you apply to your body. How many do you really want or need, and which ones have been pushed on you by some corporation? We hate to recognize that we have been influenced by commercials; we tend to assume that the four billion dollars spent on radio and television advertising just reaches all those other people. A story is told of a highly educated and proud woman who had just made that point: She didn’t buy things because of the commercials.
- “What toothpaste do you use?” she was asked. “Gleem,” she said during the height of the Gleem commercial campaign a few years ago. (“Gleem is for people who can’t brush after every meal.”) “Why?” “Well,” she paused, “I don’t know.” And then she
# p. 86 #
Today you’re all girl, and being a girl was never nicer. Because this is the age of FDS. FDS was created for a uniquely feminine need. FDS, the first feminine hygiene deodorant spray. Lets you feel as fresh and feminine as you look. Enjoy being a girl. Enjoy a feeling of confidence every day. This is the Age of FDS.
-a television commercial
Seventy years ago, men consumed approximately 6,000 to 6,500 calories daily; women 4,000 to 4,500. Today the average is 2,400 to 2,800 for men and 1,800 to 2,200 for women.
Running opens doors to further thought. It can lead to a new set of values. In itself it’s changing your life style. . . . Just by putting in a physical activity, you’re changing your life style, and this may be the first step toward other changes. . . . Too many people are living sodden, marginal lives. They have just enough energy and interest to raise themselves to a level necessary for life. This is a time to live at the top of your powers. You have to think of yourself as a totality, your body reflects your personality, your mind, your spirit.
-George A. Sheehan
# p. 87 #
- added quickly, “But it’s not because of the commercials.” Another pause. “It’s just, it’s just — well, it’s just that I can’t brush after every meal.”
Many of the commercial products are positively harmful to your health, as well as extremely expensive (that advertising’s not cheap). A toothpaste advertised to give your mouth sex appeal may cause your teeth to fall out quicker as it dissolves the enamel. The spray from hairspray and deodorants can damage your lungs — and there’s certainly no evidence that hairspray does your hair any good, or that perspiration from a healthy body does you any harm. Some doctors have reported that vaginal deodorant spray can cause infection in the tissues for which it is intended and that it’s much less effective than soap and water. If you’re shaving with a blade razor, a brush and shaving soap (or regular soap) are just as effective (and incredibly cheaper) than an aerosol can of stuff. But ask the more basic question: Why are you shaving at all? As long as it’s comfortable, and you get no complaints, what’s wrong with a beard or moustache?
Early man expended a tremendous amount of physical energy in the course of his daily routine and was in great physical shape as a result. Jogging and sports are all right, but it’s more pleasant and natural if you can work your physical exercise into the normal routine of your day: Try walking or bicycling to and from work. Don’t pay for some corporate health clubs or golf clubs. Be resentful of corporate America trying to sell you back the health they stole from you. Participation in your life-support activities generally will increase your physical activity. In any event, you and I probably
# p. 88 #
Another reason why nutritional knowledge is not applied is that much of our information concerning food comes from advertising. Commercial interests wish us to buy and eat certain foods. Highly refined foods keep better than do natural foods; they are easier to store and ship. They cannot spoil because they cannot support the health of bacteria, fungi, molds or weevils; certainly they cannot build human health either.
ANNOUNCER: What’s “The Profile”? ”The Profile” is looking like this so you get looked at like this. When you have “The Profile” you not only make the scene, you steal it. How can you keep “The Profile”? By following the Profile Bread Menu Planner available at your grocer’s. The Profile Plan can help you keep slender. And delicious Profile has no artificial sweeteners. What have you got to lose — except tomorrow’s weight.
-a television commercial
# p. 89 #
need substantially more exercise than we get. It will help your mental health and disposition, your posture, your intellectual powers, your sense of physical well-being, your sexual activity, your heart and circulatory system, your physical attractiveness, your capacity to sleep, and your weight control. It’s possible to work exercise into your daily routine in ways that will take no additional time (or only marginally more). So what excuse have we got?
Once you gain a sense of consciousness of your body, you are necessarily more careful of what you put into it. Few Americans have enough basic nutritional knowledge to be safe wandering about alone in supermarkets, restaurants, and drive-ins. Primitive man didn’t have much nutritional knowledge either. But he didn’t have to get his food from those sources. I am as partially informed and misinformed about nutrition as the next guy. At the time I was writing this book I was just beginning to read more about food and to buy more from whole-food stores.
So far, however, I think the rebuttable presumption is proving to be of greatest value to me in the area of food and nutrition. Primitive man didn’t use artificial fertilizers and chemical insecticides, and, until someone can prove to my satisfaction that they make a positive contribution to my body, I’d prefer to avoid them. The same thing goes for chemical additives, especially those added to prevent spoilage (“to insure freshness”). Whole grains have more nutritional value than those man has treated, heated, “refined,” and coated with sugar. (Have you ever noticed how they take the wheat germ out of your bread — along with most of its other
# p. 90 #
Analysis of a meteorite that fell in Kentucky has disclosed the . . . 18 chemical “building blocks” of life . . . known as amino acids, . . . similar to those from which proteins are formed in life on earth.
–The New York Times
Our children are being programmed to demand sugar and sweetness in every food . . . are deliberately being sold the sponsor’s less nutritious products and . . . are being counter-educated away from nutrition knowledge.
ANNOUNCER: The hurry-up, keep-up world of children. The hurry-up, keep-up world of children can make them tense and upset. This can cause irregularity despite proper diet. So when your child is irregular give him Fletcher’s Castoria. This natural vegetable laxative is made specially for children in a hurry-up, keep up world.
-a television commercial
# p. 91 #
natural goodness — and then sell it back to you?) Natural sweeteners like honey, or fruits, are better for you than that chemical white powder, called sugar, that the corporations are pushing. And fresh, raw fruits and vegetables are better for you than those that are cooked, canned, or frozen.
You can easily ignore most of the products in your supermarket and do a little more food preparation from basic ingredients yourself. Most of what I buy is fish, fresh fruits and vegetables. There is very little meat in my diet, except when it’s served to company. There are powdered milk and fruit and vegetable juices. Honey is the sweetener. There are dried beans for soups, wheat germ, nuts, raisins, and oats for muesli, and whole-grain flour for bread. There are salt, baking soda, spices and herbs, vegetable oils, and vinegar. With this approach to food I can pass by not only individual products, but whole shelves and aisles. I do not buy: cold breakfast cereals, soft drinks, potato chips and comparable “munchies,” candy and cookies, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables, or prepared dishes or meals (whether dry, canned, or frozen). It’s a wonderfully liberating feeling to walk through an aisle of such junky, overpriced food of little nutritional value and realize that I don’t want it.
I’m not interested in giving cooking or any of these other activities a lot of time, but cooking from scratch doesn’t necessarily take longer. I can make corn bread with baking soda in about the same time it takes to go to the store, or put supper on the table (twenty-five minutes). But I won’t take the time to make yeast bread, often, unless there’s somebody there to visit with, or something else to do at the same time. I make
# p. 92 #
There’s a whole new way of living. Pepsi helps supply the drive. It’s got a lot to give to those who like to live ’cause Pepsi helps ’em come alive. It’s the Pepsi Generation. Comin’ at ya, goin’ strong. Put yourself behind a Pepsi. If you’re a livin’, you belong. You’ve got a lot to live, and Pepsi’s got a lot to give.
-a television commercial
Dr. Pauling suggested that many pharmaceutical manufacturers, medical journals and some physicians have tried over the years to quash the evidence that vitamin C is beneficial in preventing colds in order to maintain high profits. One-quarter of all advertisements in medical journals are related to the treatment of the common cold. Drug manufacturers earn $50-million a year selling remedies to the American public.
-The New York Times
# p. 93 #
my own muesli (rolled oats, wheat germ, raisins, etc.) in less time than it takes to open a box of Captain Crunch. But I don’t often take the time to crack and pick walnuts to add to it.
The worst foods of all are those that are almost wholly the creation of man: cakes with refined sugar and flour and chemical additives to prevent molding; carbonated beverages with refined sugar and chemical sweeteners; potato slices or corn meal fried in saturated or hydrogenated (and possibly rancid) fats. Cream for your coffee? Not quite. Read the ingredients an airline stewardess gave me in a little plastic cup of chemical stuff called, beguilingly, “For Your Coffee.” The cover reads in its entirety, in smaller print than the law permits in your insurance policy:
Non dairy product. Ingredients: water, corn syrup solids, vegetable fat, sodium casenate, sodium citrate, polysorbate 68, sorbitan monostearate, mono- and diglycerides, carrageenan, artificial color, ETA, carotene. Distributed by United Air Lines, Inc., Chicago, III. 60666. Net 1/2 Fl. Oz. PULL
It is only a rebuttable presumption, mind you, but somebody is going to have to tell me why I should dump that little vial of chemicals into my body before I’m going to “PULL.”
Needless to say, the same thing goes for the chemicals called “medicines.” If a doctor orders me to consume a foreign substance, I’ll either take it or get another doctor. But if a remedy can be found that does not involve drugs — exercise, improved nutrition, sleep, or massage — I’d sure opt for it.
# p. 94 #
In losing our capacity for play and in devaluing our imaginations, we have in a very important sense lost ourselves. The death of God in our world is the death of our capacity to experience the world in a godlike way: with the full release of our creative powers, valuing our experience of people and of things for their own sakes, with that sense of ease and timelessness we have when for the moment we are set free from anxiety and self preoccupation.
Sit there. Don’t smoke. Why must you smoke? Don’t thumb a magazine. . . . You are missing the minute. And by missing the minute, you are missing everything, because all you have is that minute.
I get crazy and think I’ve got to do things instead of just letting them happen. Total freedom is threatening. We all say we want it, but when it comes, it scares you.
# p. 95 #
Our lives and our jobs tend to encourage, or require, certain attitudes about time of which we are often unconscious. We have schedules and appointments; we “have to” do one thing or another by a particular time. This is very efficient in one sense. The output of the corporations is in many ways dependent on it. (And, if you are doing boring work you hate, it’s about the only way to get through it; left to a more natural pace you’d simply never get out of the office.) But it’s a very unnatural way to live.
If you take corporate stimulants like coffee, alcohol, and nicotine, stay up watching their television programs, and have to take one of their sleeping pills to get to sleep, you then have to use one of their alarm clocks to wake up. Once you begin to live more naturally, you go to bed when you get tired, wake up with the sunrise, and you don’t need their alarm clocks.
If you are living a fully balanced life, you tend to get done all the things you need to do by doing them when you want to. You enjoy everything more, and you certainly accomplish as much — probably more. You are stimulated and enthusiastic (not bored); you are energetic (not listless). Yesterday when I was writing, I stopped to bake two loaves of whole-wheat bread. (I wrote up the new recipe in my journal.) I didn’t have to (you can always put grain in your diet in other ways). I wanted a break and it was what I seemed to feel like doing at the time.
There are a lot of things I cannot accomplish without open-ended time. For example, I like to write in the mornings. If I’ve had a good night’s sleep, I feel
# p. 96 #
The Japan that I foresee emerging will not be a country of rush and hurry, but a quieter place, where people will be contented to enjoy whatever fruits the best utilization of their capacity would produce.
In fact artistic experience lies so incredibly close to that of sex, to its pain and its ecstasy, that the two manifestations are indeed but different forms of one and the same yearning and delight.
-Rainer Maria Rilke
For many years now, Western man — especially in the management world — has also worn clothing intended to discourage riotous conduct: the somber, sensible suit, white shirt, and dignified necktie, embodying business-like propriety. But this . . . may soon lie shattered on the ground, and there is already hell to pay in the $20-billion U.S. men’s wear business.
# p. 97 #
good then. I don’t clutter up my mind with newspapers, radio, television, or phonograph records. I just have my breakfast and get ready for the day, and pretty soon little thoughts come into my mind. Sometimes they just go in the journal, because they’re of no particular use to anybody. Other times I’ll type them out in the form of first-draft opinions, articles, speeches, testimony, or what not. But I can’t just sit down and order myself to write. Nor can I do it knowing I’m going to have to stop at a fixed time. I may wake at 5: 30 A.M. and have done all the writing I want to by 7:30. Or I may wake at 7:30 and write until noon. (Or, far more often than I would like, I have to leave for a commission meeting at a particular time.) Open-ended time is also essential for making love — or poetry (which are kind of the same thing).
We’ve already discussed fashion somewhat. As I said I don’t particularly dig it. I wear the cheapest, most comfortable clothes I can find: old dress shirts (button down oxford cloth) from the office, old khakis, and hiking boots — or, if I’m about the apartment, some moccasins I made with my boys. If it’s raining or chilly I wear a khaki jacket. If it’s really cold, I have a sweat shirt with a hood, and gloves. I mean, that’s what I like. I generally wear my “Commissioner uniform” (a business suit) at the office (though not always). Mason Williams once told me he changed his clothing style when his clothes were stolen after a concert in Detroit. He decided from then on he’d only buy and wear clothes nobody would want to steal.
I do some minor mending: buttons, ripped seams,
# p. 98 #
“The new freedom in dressing is fabulous,” said Mrs. Norton Sloan, who had carefully keyed her multicolored sweatshirt to her denim shorts with a multicolored belt. “The only trouble is, you have to keep shopping to keep up with it.”
“Like every week,” agreed her friend, Mrs. Clive Summers, whose mauve boots matched her mauve shorts, jacket and huge canvas shoulder bag, all from Bergdorf Goodman’s Biba shop.
–The New York Times
Of all the people I talked to, the most frustrated and angry were those trapped in spirit-numbing jobs and in neighborhoods besieged by pollution, noise, traffic, decay and crime. The happiest were those whose jobs gave them some relief from tedium, and a chance to live near open fields and green trees, sunlight, creeks and country roads.
Commuter — one who spends his life in riding to and from his wife; A man who shaves and takes a train And then rides back to shave again.
-E. B. White
# p. 99 #
and such. But I have never sewn any real clothes. I have a great admiration for people who can. Again, however, I think a woman (or man) who sews might want to try approaching it like cooking: experimenting a bit instead of copying precisely what some pattern and sewing-materials corporation is trying to get you to do exactly their way.
What you live in and where you live are matters involving a tremendous range of personal choice — more than you might imagine you have. I met an architectural student at Windham College who fashioned a very elaborate tree house for himself off campus. My sister lived on a sailboat for a year. I wanted to live in an old, abandoned lock house on the C & O Canal, but the Park Service demurred. I am now living — as you may be — in a conventional American apartment house (three-story “garden type”). I like to live on the ground floor (so I can wheel my bicycle in and have easier access to the yard), and I sought out a place right across the street from one of Washington’s wilderness parks (where I go for walks and cycle to work). I think it’s important to have an accessible wilderness with which you are familiar through all the seasons.
Suburbs were invented by the automobile industry. The joy of living just far enough from your office to give you a regular walk or bicycle ride every day is hard to overestimate. It saves a tremendous amount of time and money. It helps to integrate your life for you psychologically. And it enables you to eliminate that classic corporate activity called commuting.
It’s nice to have a room you can call your own,
# p. 100 #
In the background of all of this is the collective Self of the American people which has been educated to put the high-rising living standard in the place of true Self-realization.
To accumulate possessions is to deliver pieces of one self to dead things. Possessions can absorb [emotions], but unlike personal relationships they feed nothing back.
well . . . I cry when I see that brand new automatic washing machine ’cause I’m sentimental for the old machine still yet ’cause the old one really looked like a real live washing machine but the new one just looks more like a television set . . .
# p. 101 #
whether you’re living alone or with others. Beyond that, however — assuming you can afford more space — you may find that the less room you have the better. Our country’s most fashionable suburbs house many people who either spend a disproportionate part of their time, energy, and money with their houses, or have contracted out so much of the work (gardening, cooking, etc.) that their homes take on a sterile hotel atmosphere.
I like to keep my home furnishings as simple, functional, and cheap as possible. As with fashion, I realize that mankind has for years wanted to make his dwelling aesthetically pleasing. Many women (and men) take great delight in interior decorating, and those who are original, artistic, and reasonably frugal about it have my admiration. But all too many simply buy the corporate standards for the interior decoration of their homes with the same lack of personal involvement they apply to the exterior decoration of their bodies. You can even buy an interior decorator.
I was going to make furniture out of some old trees brought back from West Virginia, but so far it hasn’t happened. If you can’t make your own furniture and other household objects, you can try to buy them from people who do. Fran Riecken, a woman I have known since I was a very small boy, has taken up pottery in the last few years — with non-toxic glazes. Her pieces are so nice that I really prefer the “seconds” because they look more handmade (and are cheaper). They are all about my office and home. I could easily get by with my four-place camp cook set and would never consider buying corporate dishware, but her batter bowls, plates, and cups add to my pleasure. Find the folks in your area who are into handicrafts: weaving, leatherwork,
# p. 102 #
It is assumed by the utilities that the demand for power is real because people continue to purchase it. However, we are all bombarded with massive amounts of advertising encouraging us to buy appliances, gadgets, new cars, and so on. There is no comparable public service advertising pointing up the harmful effects of over-purchase of “convenience” appliances that increase use of power.
If donning a sweater or adding a blanket to the bed at night is comfortable, lower the thermostat by a degree or two. Raising the setting only one degree costs 3% to 4% more in fuel consumption; raising it five degrees, 15% to 20% more.
WHY EVERYONE SHOULD CONSERVE ELECTRICITY (AND OTHER THINGS, TOO)
Electricity is the cleanest form of energy used by man. But even electricity causes some damage to the environment — to air, water, and the landscape. We therefore urge that everyone conserve electricity at all seasons of the year. By “conserve” we mean: use what you need for healthful, safe, and pleasant living, but do not waste.
It may be more profitable for Con Edison if you burn unnecessary lights, over-heat and over-cool your apartment or home, and otherwise keep your meter running at full speed. But it costs you money. More seriously, it may cause unnecessary pollution, and waste precious natural resources.
-Consolidated Edison mailer
# p. 103 #
pottery, wood and metalworking. Give them your money. It will enrich your life, provide you some original and appreciated gifts for others, and help to create a community in which such activities can continue.
You might ask yourself with regard to any object, piece of clothing, or “thing”: Can I do without it? Can I repair something I already have? Can I substitute something cheaper or simpler? Can I make it for myself? If not, can I buy it handmade from the craftsman? Only if all else fails do you shop for it, and then, when possible, at a small shop where you can deal personally with the owner.
Corporate box houses with bad ventilation (or no shade trees) and poor insulation (enormous glass doors and windows) need more heating and cooling than houses designed to fit their environment. Unless you’re into wood stoves, you’re going to have to buy the corporations’ electricity (or gas, or oil, or whatever fuel they have decided to sell you). About all you can do to fight back is to use as little of it as possible. It will save you money, and be better for your health. In summer, use fans to push fresh air around. The excessive use of air conditioners has taken on social consequences. Occasionally heavy usage produces blackouts when the power companies overstrain their systems. Always it uses up the nation’s limited energy resources. (Most of our electricity is being generated by processes that burn up coal, oil, and natural gas.)
Even lighting — once the exclusive preserve of sun and fire — has been taken over by the corporations. Artificial light has become a necessity in our homes and on the streets at night. But try turning off the lights during
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Have a living Christmas tree. . . . There are two advantages of planting your holiday trees: you improve your landscaping, and you will have pleasant mementos.
-Betty Ann Ottinger
They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum And they charged all the people a dollar and a half just to see ’em
In most cases the only really safe (or necessary) insecticides are birds and a fly swatter. . . . One purple martin can easily dispatch 2,000 mosquitoes in a single day.
-Betty Ann Ottinger
All I need to do is wake up in the morning and hear the birds. That gives me joy.
-Bill Scudder, an aircraft mechanic
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the day whenever possible. Natural light is cheaper, prettier, and better for your eyes.
Plants are nice around the house, inside and out. They are life — in a world of plastic and cement. Gardening is the only modern-day tie for most of us to the life of our agrarian ancestors. Few of us can raise a significant proportion of the fruit and vegetables, let alone meat, we eat in a year. But you can generally find somewhere to plant a few carrots or radishes — even if it’s in a window box or a flowerpot on the sill. I got permission to use a small plot of ground that was between a chain-link fence and the wall of my apartment house. Up the street, a number of apartment dwellers have substantial gardens on a plot provided by the Department of the Interior within the boundary of my park.
I also use my little garden plot to recycle some of my fruit and vegetable scraps. It’s not clear what the owner or manager think, but in fact there is no unpleasant odor whatsoever (it’s best not to include meat or fats) if the scraps are adequately buried and watered. It’s really as important for me as for the soil — a sense of contribution to the earth that sustains us.
I like animals, too, but I would rather “keep” wild ones that can care for themselves in freedom than to buy one from a pet store and feed it corporate pet food. I hang birdhouses and feeders about and have never been at a loss for friendly animals.
Creativity and contemplation
From here on out, your life naturally evolves on its own. You were born to love, to be creative, to use your intellectual powers in freedom, to contemplate the wonder of things in a religious or philosophical way. That’s
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Each individual will find self-expression. All of life will become personal, artistic expression of one kind or another. The domestic arts will be the center of creation: building, gardening, cooking, decorating, entertaining; living well. Crafts will flourish such as weaving, sewing, pottery, woodwork, stonework, ironwork, etc.
-L. Clark Stevens
Almost every child, on the first day he sets foot in a school building, is smarter, more curious, less afraid of what he doesn’t know, better at finding and figuring things out, more confident, resourceful, persistent and independent than he will ever be again in his schooling — or, unless he is very unusual and very lucky, for the rest of his life.
Education squashes my growth.
-Berger in Hair
Composing to a composer is like fulfilling a natural function. It is like eating or sleeping.
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not something you nave to learn. It’s something you have to get back to. You have to unlearn what the corporations have taught you. All you need is your freedom, the freedom to be yourself, to know yourself. You can’t be free when you’re a part of the corporate state: Your cells are composed of its chemicals; your body is covered with its sprays and clothes; you are transported along its freeways in its automobiles; you sit on its furniture, eat from its dishes, and fill your head full of its advertising and propaganda and manufactured entertainment.
Once you get all that stuff out of your system, what’s left is you. Whistle an original tune. Better yet, try to work it out on your guitar. You will find yourself naturally writing thoughts and observations, fairly called “poetry,” in your journal — not because you’re suddenly a genius, but because you’re suddenly human. You cannot possibly become intimate with a woods — to know its fog, to be there when the first morning sun arrives, to watch the lightning splatter its treetops as they whip about at night before a rain — without thinking some thoughts beyond yourself. To me it seems natural to wonder about the religious doctrines that have captured the imagination of man over the centuries. You will naturally come to reflect on your relationships with other people, too. You will try to be more honest in identifying and dealing with your feelings and those of others.
You, as a baby of a healthy and well-nourished mother, began life with good cellular structure, pink lungs, curiosity, and creativity. You would, naturally, learn to give and share love. Your curiosity would lead you to fill your mind with information. Your natural
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This horn-of plenty of benefits — from how to live with out fighting to how to please your wife — all derive from . . . understanding who you are, why you’re here, how you tick — and behaving accordingly. Happiness is functioning the way a being is organized to function . . . .
-Sam, in Robert A. Heinlein’s
Stranger in a Strange Land
Let life happen to you. Believe me: life is right, in any case . . . . Everything that makes more of you than you have heretofore been in your best hours, is right. Every heightening is good if it is in your whole blood, if it is not intoxication, not turbidity, but joy which one can see clear to the bottom.
-Rainer Maria Rilke
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joy and enthusiasm would be expressed in creative ways. You could live off the earth. You would naturally seek out good food. Fresh air and clean water would help sustain you. You would not be wasteful of the land’s abundance. You would be physically fit, naturally, from going about your daily rounds. You would be reflective about the meaning of your life and your relation to the earth. You still possess a little bit of all of these qualities. To the extent they are out of harmony with the life you lead, you feel the strain.
You had to be taught to demand heavy doses of refined sugar in your diet and other nonfood products and stimulants: soft drinks, coffee, and alcohol. You had to be sold the idea of filling your lungs with smoke. You had to have your curiosity and creativity pounded out of you by your parents and teachers. You have to be conned into buying the junk that clutters up your life — decreasing your happiness and your pocketbook. You have to be trained to be physically lazy.
You’re all right. You can live on the earth just fine. You were made for it. You’re welcome there. It’s all that stuff that’s been laid on you — at some corporation’s profit — that’s making you miserable and causing you to lose track of the rhythm of the earth. You can get it back. But only when you remember where you lost it.