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Animism, atavism, and the paradox of self-sufficiency

Today, I’ll step aside and let Joel speak:

The first rule of living on the edge is this: You’re in charge. You’re responsible. If something goes wrong, nobody’s going to come and fix it for you. There’s no point grumbling and waiting for the guy with the wrench, because the guy with the wrench is you.

That brings things to a very basic and vital level. I used to be consumed with worry over things like who was undermining me at the office, or how badly a customer was going to screw me on draft revisions, or how to deal with the next-door neighbor who played his piano at 3 AM and drove my wife crazy. Seriously, I used to brood over things like that. Now I wonder if the chickens will lay enough eggs tomorrow. I worry about the state of my stovepipe. Will the water freeze? Will coyotes take my kitten? Will I have enough firewood?

There are two major differences between the old worries and the new ones. First, the new set of worries are worth worrying about. Those are things that can actually do harm to me and mine. Second, they’re all things I can do something about. I can get more chickens, or kill or separate the one that’s upsetting the others. I can clean the damn stovepipe more often, insulate the pipes more heavily, go out and cut more firewood. Zoe’s pretty much on her own – though she’s napping happily right next to me as I write this.

Those old quotidian worries used to make me very unhappy, because I was always dependent on other people for their solution and I felt helpless against them. Now I’ve got worries about things that can actually hurt me, but they don’t make my unhappy because I can get off my ass and do something about them any time I need to.


  1. Pat
    Pat December 26, 2012 12:05 pm

    I was just mulling over the “paradox of self-sufficiency” from Joel’s Gulch when I came here.

    It’s really a bit of self-discovery for all of us, I think; what we are determines how we accept it. And how we accept it determines what we become.

    It does force one to realize what’s important to worry about. If we could establish priorities before making the jump from old to new (and sweep away the clutter, both material and abstract), we might have the self-confidence to tackle the new – thus more of us might be tempted to join Joel in Hermitville.

  2. Ellendra
    Ellendra December 26, 2012 1:34 pm

    Helplessness hurts more than worry itself. I think that’s the difference.

  3. naturegirl
    naturegirl December 26, 2012 2:30 pm

    I read that too, and it made me smile……I usually chuckle at the other people who like to refer to “living simply” as “easier”….it’s not, but the priority change is much smarter…..

    But it’s a perfect example of how freedom is really so very personal to each and every one of us……

  4. LarryA
    LarryA December 26, 2012 3:21 pm

    “The first rule of living on the edge is this: You’re in charge. You’re responsible. If something goes wrong, nobody’s going to come and fix it for you.”

    That’s also the first rule for people who live in the system, when they suddenly get caught on the edge. The difference is that we understand the rule, and are better prepared to live with it than the folks who stand around listening to the 911 busy signal.

  5. Pat
    Pat December 27, 2012 7:24 am

    Off-topic question: Does anyone know what _go2cloud DOT org_ is? It’s been showing up behind my Firefox/Startpage, and NoScript is not picking it up at all. When I close Startpage, a blank screen is on my computer which Firefox does recognize and asks if I want to Allow it to be opened. I close the blank scree – but it is worrisome that it shows up at all.

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